Browsing the archives for the Inspiration category.


  • From the Mixed-Up Files... > Inspiration
  • OhMG! News

    New-Oh-MG-critter

    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, read more...

     

    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...

     

  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Books Change Lives – The International Book Project

Inspiration, Interviews, Miscellaneous

IBP_n

Way back in 1988 to 1990, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer on a little island in the West Indies called Dominica. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, although a lot of my mail from home mistakenly went there first. I taught organic agriculture in a village called Coulibistrie. The principal of the school, Ms. Louis, became a friend of mine and she one day confessed to me that working at this school was very discouraging. She felt that the students, Kindergarten through eighth grade, were neglected by the government and that the schools in the nearby capital were granted all the best amenities. I asked Ms. Louis if she could have anything she wanted for her school, what would it be. And she said: Books.

There are many non-profit programs that help get books and school materials to third-world countries, but I chose to contact the International Book Project (IBP) in Lexington, Kentucky because my parents lived there. And I am very lucky they did. About six months before my two year Peace Corps commitment was coming to an end, I took a quick trip home and while I was there I spent a day at the IBP’s warehouse, picking out books for the Coulibistrie School. I could not believe what was available! Beautiful, clean, and sturdy text books in every subject for every grade, not to mention novels, National Geographic magazines, as well as maps and other types of educational wall posters. All of these materials had been donated by schools in and around the Lexington area.

An IBP volunteer kept track of all the books I was claiming for my school and she promised they’d be packed into a forty- foot sea container and sent to the port nearest Coulibistrie and all Ms. Louis and I would have to do is sign for them and then deliver them to the school. A grand total of about fifteen thousand books!

And sure enough, about four or five months later, the books arrived. The whole village was so excited that they all pitched in to get wood and build shelves in the school to protect the beloved books.

Coulibistrie School, 1990, proud to show off their new shelves for their school books.

Coulibistrie School, 1990, proud to show off their new shelves for their school books.

Then, every family with a truck drove to the port to collect the boxes wrapped in plastic and carried them to the school. While they were doing all the work, I was in the process of preparing to return home, so I was not able to see the books on their new shelves. But I did receive many letters from kids and parents in Coulibistrie expressing their gratitude. Ms. Louis wrote me and said, “I am so proud to work in one of the finest schools on the island, thanks to all the books.”

That was twenty-four years ago and, sadly, I have lost contact with many of my friends there. But I recently contacted Kristen Svarczkopf,  the Executive Director of the International Book Project, and I was able to ask a few questions about how the project is going.

Jennifer: When Coulibistrie ordered and received the books from the International Book Project, the whole process went so smoothly and easily. Is that always the case?

Kristen: After nearly fifty years of sending books to the developing world, most of our shipments do run pretty smoothly, but the diversity of countries in which we work and the constantly changing nature of the delivery of books (digital as well as paper) means that we are always adapting to changing environments and circumstances. Because the vast majority of the books we send are going to rural communities in the developing world – more than 95% – the biggest obstacles to achieving our mission is simply the cost of shipping over land to reach these communities, and ensuring we have enough volunteer labor to make sure that every shipment is customized to the needs of that particular partner.

How many books get shipped out a year?

International Book Project sends more than 200,000 books annually. We have partnered with book recipients in 140 countries since our founding.

Wow! It must be exciting to see such success with the program. How did you become involved with the project?

Before I joined the International Book Project as Executive Director, I was working in Lusaka, Zambia managing the United States Student Achievers Program. This program, run by the US Department of State, selected exceptional Zambian students and funded their applications to US colleges and universities. Additionally, they paid for the students’ fees for the SAT and ACT exams. The first problem I noticed when I began managing the program was that the ACT and SAT books were very outdated and there weren’t enough of them for the students to take home and study in the evenings.

I called on the International Book Project for help and of course they came through for us immediately. More than 80% of that cohort of students were accepted and fully funded to study at US colleges and universities that year, just the second year of the program. This absolutely would not have happened without access to those college exam prep books.

I’ll give you an example of just one person in that 80% whose life was clearly changed. Anisa was 18 years old when he left Zambia for the first time to study at Fairfield University. He chose to study economics and earned an internship at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Nairobi after just his second year there. Then, he added Chinese to his course of study and went to the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies improve his language fluency. There, he also learned firsthand some of the most cutting edge analysis in what works in developing economies. He will graduate with his bachelor’s in economics this May among the top students in his class. He wishes to return to Zambia and enter government service as an economist to help his fellow Zambians escape the grip of poverty and ease their reliance on Western aid. Before Anisa went to Fairfield University he had never left about 100 mile radius from the village where he was born. Early in his life, his father died from HIV/AIDS and his older brother took the primary responsibility for his family. Working part time at Fairfield, he was able for the first time to financially support his mother and siblings in Zambia. He struggled to use a computer at first, having never had access to one in Zambia, but he knew the effort would pay off. He says that the United States Student Achievers Program gave him the opportunity to continue his education and better his life, his family’s life, and ultimately help his country progress. He also says that without the International Book Project giving him that SAT book in the very beginning that there is no way he would have gotten such a high score and been fully funded to study in the US. Not only did Anisa lift himself out of poverty, he is lifting his entire family out of poverty, and the future will only tell how many Zambians he will impact going forward. This is one person impacted by the International Book Project, and the truth is that there are millions more stories just like this one of people getting access to books that change the course of their lives and the lives around them.

416196_10150891193072023_2126923217_oAnisa’s story is inspiring! Books really do change lives! You must love your job, knowing what positive effects the project is having on people all over the world.

What I love best about my job is the metric by which we measure success. After years in the private sector and government, I wanted a change from measuring success solely by the bottom line. At the International Book Project, success means giving students the tools they need to achieve their dreams – books! When I see a photograph or video of a rural school, or even a school right here in our own backyard in Kentucky that has partnered with us, I am filled with joy and pride knowing that our work contributed to those students’ educations and is helping to foster a love of learning in them. I believe that books change lives, and I get to act every day to carry out a positive change in the world.

What is the best way for our Mixed-Up Files readers to contribute?

You can contribute to International Book Project by funding a shipment or volunteering your time. For more information go to our website . You can also find us on Facebook .

Jennifer Duddy Gill writes children’s books that she hopes will change lives or at least brighten a child’s day.

No Comments

The Magic of Writing

Inspiration, Writing MG Books

It’s sort of a funny thing, being a writer. Tell people you’ve written a book, and they immediately think you’re a) rich, b) rich and famous, or c) going to be rich and famous (and able to help them find a publisher for their book, still to-be-written, of course).

But mostly, they seem to think you work some kind of voodoo magic. Spinning stories out of thin air. Casting them off into the world without blinking an eye. Case in point, a conversation I had recently with a good friend who is a commercial pilot.

Pilot friend: So how do you do it?
Me: Do what?
PF: You know. Write. What’s a typical day like for you?
Me: Well, I get up in the morning, have my coffee, walk the dog. Then I sit down with my laptop and write. Then I usually have lunch. And hit the gym. And then I write some more, even if I don’t really feel like it. Especially if I’m on deadline.
PF: Huh. That’s not at all what I pictured. No coffee shops? No writer’s groups with everyone wearing black and sipping espressos? No shots of whiskey?
Me: No. Coffee shops are distracting. And you know I like bright colors. Mochas with whipped cream. And wine. Preferably the sparkling kind.
PF: Laughs. Well, I still don’t know how you do it. I could never do that. Just sit down and write a book.
Me: Yeah? And I could never just step into a cockpit and fly a plane, either.

And that’s the thing — somehow there’s this strange myth that if you’re really, truly a Real, True Writer all you need to do take pen to paper and the words will flow, like magic. Yeah, right. Sure, some people are born with an innate talent for writing. Just like some have an innate talent for science or all things mechanical. But who on earth would expect (or want!) a pilot that flew on “innate talent” alone? Or a surgeon who just had a gut feeling where to find the appendix? (Unless, of course, he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, in which case your book signing is safe.)

In my mind, writing is no different. If we want to be any good, we have to practice. And read. And get out into the world and observe. And listen. And practice some more. But mostly, we have to commit — commit to putting our butts in our chairs, commit to writing, commit to learning and to accepting criticism. We have to be willing to put in the time and effort, kind of like a pilot logging hours before they can fly solo.

I’ve heard it said (probably a million times), that it takes a million bad words before a writer produces something worth publication. (Let’s see… that would be word number 925,461… not that I’m counting or anything…). And maybe it’s not exactly a million words, but the point is valid — to do something well, we have to do it over. And over. And over again. And we have to fail (probably more than once), so we can learn from our mistakes.

After all, an overnight success is just someone who has worked really hard to become successful, right?

So how do you learn and grow as a writer? (Or pilot? Or surgeon?) Tell me in the comments below!

Jan Gangsei doesn’t have a clue how to fly a plane. But one of these days, she’d love to learn. In the meantime, she’s perfectly happy using her imagination to soar into the clouds.

4 Comments

Unworkshop Scholarship Opportunity: Unplug and Retreat

friendships, Inspiration, Writing MG Books

In 2008, nine writers gathered for a retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania. So inspired by the experience, they decided to offer a scholarship to a Highlights Foundation’s Unworkshop during various dates throughout 2014.

highlights giftThank you, Alma Fullerton, Kristy Duncan Dempsey, Katy Traffanstedt Duffield, Kathy Erskine, Sara Lewis Holmes, Anne Marie Pace, Tanya Goulette SealeLinda Urban, Cassandra Reigel Whetstone!

These wonderful women took the time to answer some questions:

MUF: It’s been six years since you first gathered at Highlights. Do you return every year?

ALL: Unfortunately we haven’t returned all together but many of us have been to other valuable Highlights conferences. With our schedules and responsibilities, as well as the fact that we are far-flung across North and South America, it’s hard to find dates that work for all of us to return together. But we keep trying!

MUF: What is it about writing alone together that is so great?

ALL: The best part of each day, besides all the writing we accomplished, was meeting together toward the end of the afternoon for conversation. We talked about what we had written, what we were struggling with, breakthroughs we’d had. We read from our manuscripts and cheered one another along. Our specific goals and work styles might have been different, but having a roomful of cheerleaders is empowering.

The most important thing to note is that we did not all know each other before we went on our retreat. So the door is open for the recipient of this scholarship to meet new people who will be new ears and eyes and become new supporters in this writing journey.

MUF: Tell me your favorite thing about the Highlights Foundation space—the natural setting, the food, the cabin?

ALL: All of it! But more even than the setting and food and being completely taken care of is the magic of the place, the synergy with other writers there, the support you feel from the folks at Highlights who take your goals seriously. It’s as if you’re an ambassador at the UN for Children’s Writers because that’s how you’re treated—you’re important, what you’re doing is important, and writing quality literature for children is almost like saving the world because, in some way, that’s we’re trying to do for kids by giving them great stories to make them think, make them laugh, and give them hope.

MUF: What prompted all of you to offer this scholarship?

ALL: Katy Duffield threw out the idea of doing something to promote the Highlights Unworkshops because our retreat was so significant for each of us. Then in the conversation, we realized we could pool resources to be able to provide a retreat for someone. And we were off and running with the idea of a scholarship, along with the extras of writing prompts, encouragement, and potential Skype conversations during the retreat.

MUF: How will you choose the winner?

ALL: We’ll read the author statements, choose the ones that speak to each of us individually and then we will decide together on one recipient from those finalists.

MUF: Unplugging is so hard these days. How can we create unworkshop-like experiences at home.

ALL: Linda Urban has shared a wonderful idea to help with unplugging—and all you need is a timer. Simply set the timer for 45-60 minutes and focus on your writing task. Sounds too easy to be true, doesn’t it? It IS easy, but it’s also amazingly effective. Every time I’ve used the timer, I’ve written for a lot longer than the 60 minutes. You can read more here.

The nitty gritty details: To qualify for consideration for this prize, send a statement by March 31, 2014 to retreat scholarship@gmail.com explaining why this retreat could be important to you as a writer/illustrator of children’s literature. Share a little about the project you would plan to work on during the retreat and your experience writing or illustrating for children. The winner receives 5 nights stay at a Highlights Foundation Unworkshop, daily writing prompts/encouragement from the members of our retreat group (picture book, non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult authors) for the length of your workshop, and hopefully even a Skype gab session with one or more of us during your Unworkshop (depending on dates and availability). You would be responsible for your own transportation to Boyds Mills. The recipient will be announced on April 15, 2014.

1 Comment
« Older Posts