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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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  • Exercises Middle-Grade Writers Love

    Book Lists

    I’ve met a lot of reluctant middle-grade writers over the years, but few can resist plunging into these fun exercises. All you need is a stack of old magazines!

    Create a character! 

    Snip out dozens of photos of people doing interesting things & include a few non-humans for those MG animal lovers. I usually divide the photos into a girl stack and a boy stack, knowing that a lot of boys wouldn’t want to get stuck with a frilly prom queen–especially in a classroom setting. Pass out the photos (sometimes I let kids draw a photo from the envelope).

    While the kids paste their photos into their notebooks with glue stick, I write a few ideas on the board. Where does your character live? Where is your character going? Who are your character’s friends? Describe your character.

    Some kids plunge into stories, but other students work on writing great descriptions.

    Focus on the Problem! 

    Middle-grade writers are good at coming up with crazy characters (like zombie prom queens), but sometimes they struggle with creating strong conflicts. Using advice columns immediately gets young writers focused on writing about a problem. For more advanced writers, using the advice column exercise is a good way to teach kids how to write a scene by adding dialogue, description, and inner thoughts.

    Embarrassing Moments! 

    Nothing makes kids giggle like the Embarrassing Moments page in a magazine. Find a great embarrassing moment anecdote and ask students to write what led up to the embarrassing moment or what happened right after the embarrassing moment. Kids love showing off their humorous side, but I love showing them that the same idea will lead to wildly different stories (so they never need to worry about having their ideas stolen).

    Middle-grade writers enjoy these exercise, but those who write for middle-graders might come up with some great ideas too. Give it a try writers!

    Sydney Salter is currently an Author-In-Residence at Utah’s Endeavor Hall charter school where the above writing exercises have turned into truly imaginative stories! 

    2 Comments

    Winner!

    Book Lists

    PragmaticMom won a copy of Dianna Dorisi Winget’s debut, A SMIDGEN OF SKY!

     

    Congratulations!!!!

     

    To read the interview see here.

    1 Comment

    Interview with Dianna Dorisi Winget

    Book Lists

    You’re a Pacific Northwestern writer, living in Idaho, how did you come to write a novel set in Georgia—filled with all those delicious Southern phrases?

    People ask me this all the time, and I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t come up with a very good answer. I’ve always been intrigued with the South. It just seems to be a more laid back, genteel type of place. At the time I was writing the story, I had a close friend from Oklahoma. She shared all sorts of first hand experiences, phrases, and lots of other tidbits that really helped me make A Smidgen of Sky feel authentically Southern. Plus, I love peaches and Southern accents . . . so there you go.

    Piper Lee knows a lot about airplanes, her mother’s fiancé works in a prison… What kind of research did you do while writing A Smidgen Of Sky?

    I had a lot of fun researching the South itself. I learned about things like how to make sweat tea, where chiggers are found, what the bark of pecan trees feels like, ect, ect.  As far as the aviation theme, here in my hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho, there’s a really cool place called the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. It’s owned by Dr. Forrest Bird and his wife, Pamela. Dr. Bird invented the Baby Bird respirator, which has saved the lives of countless infants. I interviewed the Birds three times for various magazine articles, which meant I got to make several visits to the museum. So that definitely played a part in Piper Lee’s love of airplanes.

    As far as Ben’s job as a prison guard, I studied pictures, and read a number of articles on prison riots—what provoked them, how they were handled, and what the outcome was. The dialogue of the reporters was based on transcripts of actual news stories.

    Your characters wrestle with difficult issues—loss, forgiveness, jealousy, and the consequences for impulsive actions. Why do you think it’s important to explore serious themes for middle-grade readers?

    Kids today are faced with so many issues at such a young age. The lucky ones have caring parents or other adults to guide and direct them. But so many children today seem to be floundering. While books certainly can’t take the place of an attentive parent, they can at least open a dialogue, and maybe help a struggling child feel less alone. I’m sure that some youngsters who read A Smidgen of Sky will find themselves in the same tricky situation as Piper Lee—trying to adjust to a new step-family, and having a tough time. As they read about Piper’s mixed emotions, and see how she tries to cope, maybe it will help validate their own feelings, as well as offer some good (and not so good) ways of dealing with the situation.

    As far as Piper dealing with the consequences of her actions—have you noticed how rarely TV shows and movies show characters having to face up to what they’ve done? It’s kind of crazy. I think sitcoms are the worst. Kids on these shows do all sorts of wild, disrespectful things and get totally away with it. Their actions are portrayed as a joke. So my editor and I both thought it was important to show readers that Piper Lee’s impulsive antics led to some real consequences, just as they would in real life.

    I really liked the way your story emphasizes the importance of Internet safety. What inspired this subplot?

    Kids are trusting by nature, and technology is so second nature to them, many don’t stop to realize that it could actually be dangerous. Since Piper was already using the Internet to search for Ginger’s mom, it only seemed logical that at some point she’d search for her own dad as well. And since Piper was so eager for any news, I could totally picture her believing anyone who claimed to have information. So the plot twist of an Internet predator just naturally evolved.

    What are your tips to readers to make sure they stay safe online?

    Always remember that people online are “invisible.” You really have no way of knowing who you’re communicating with, so be extra careful when it comes to talking with, or friending people you don’t know. Always ask a parent or another trusted adult before giving out any personal information online.

    Adults are often absent in middle-grade books, so I really like the way A Smidgen of Sky shows Piper Lee’s relationships with her mother, new step-father, and especially her elderly neighbor Miss Claudia. Why do you think it’s important for children to have adult mentors in their lives?

    The common advice to leave parents out of kids literature has always been one of my pet peeves. Adults should play a big role in the life of an 8-12 year old. You don’t want them to take over the story, of course. It’s important the main character solve his or her own problem. But I never understood the claim that kids don’t like to read stories that contain adult characters. I read voraciously as a child, and I was never turned off by adult characters. I expected them to be there. I think it’s a little different for YA, because by then a youngster is slowly moving away from the family, that’s the natural course of events. But even in YA, it’s unrealistic to pretend that adults don’t exist.

    Tell us about one of your own mentors.

    The foremost one would have to be my mom. She was always there for me to talk with and turn to with problems while I was growing up. I still consider her my best friend. That’s why I retain my maiden name (Dorisi) in anything writing related, and why A Smidgen of Sky is dedicated to my mom and dad. Without their support and encouragement, I really don’t believe I’d be a published author today.

    Finally, your book opens with a dreaded and despised yellow bridesmaid dress. I have to ask—what’s your worst bridesmaid dress encounter?

    Oh, my goodness, finally a chance to get this off my chest! When I was fourteen, my older brother (and only sibling, no less) asked me to be a bridesmaid in his upcoming wedding. I was beyond excited, since I’d never been in anyone’s wedding before. Then his fiancé ended up picking these extremely low cut bridesmaid’s dresses that my parents refused to let me wear! I’m not sure who I was more upset with, my parents or my future sister-in-law. But in all fairness, she did turn out to be a pretty good addition to the family. So, I’ve forgiven her . . . pretty much.

    Want to share any tidbits about current works in progress?

    I have a second MG novel, “True as Steel,” which is under consideration by my Harcourt editor right now. The first chapter is posted on my website. And for all the young readers who (hopefully) fall in love with Piper Lee and want to now what happens next, I’m about two-thirds of the way through a sequel to A Smidgen of Sky.

     Please a comment to win a copy of Dianna Dorisi Winget’s novel A Smidgen of Sky.

    Sydney Salter is the author of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Jungle Crossing, and Swoon At Your Own Risk. You can find out more at www.sydneysalter.com 

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