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    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...

     

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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.

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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.

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Waiting is the Hard Part

Authors, Book Lists, Inspiration, Librarians, Parents, Teachers, Writing MG Series

So when you read the title of this post did Tom Petty’s song “Waiting is the Hardest Part” come to mind? If not, it probably did now. (Cue music in your head).

We all have problems with waiting. Well, why not? In this fast-paced world you can get emails instantly, text someone across the world and receive an answer a few seconds later, and you can even have a face-to-face chat as you are walking down the street. Why should we have to wait anymore?

But, alas, waiting is a part of life. And it’s not fun.

In my house at the moment, we are waiting for something big — college acceptance letters! For those of you who haven’t experienced this, it is a stressful time. It is the first time in your life where your child’s future cannot be influenced by you. Always before you could perhaps guide the outcome of something- perhaps by talking to a teacher when a paper is late, or maybe smoothing over differences with a coach when your child is upset. But college admissions offices don’t want to deal with parents or guardians any more. It’s all up to them. They decide the fate of your child. In or out. That’s all you get.

As I watch and wait with my daughter, I am struck by how similar applying for college is like writing. In very simplistic terms the stories we write are sort of like our own babies. We have stayed up late with them, we have nurtured them — sometimes for years — before they are ready, and when we push send on the email or place the stamp on the envelope, we are sending them off into the world. Much like college admissions offices, the agents and editors that receive our carefully crafted manuscripts don’t allow any kind of “parental” interference. The wait can seem interminable, and quite frankly, sometimes it is. It can be weeks or months before you hear about your manuscript. Or, unfortunately, you may never hear anything.

Having gone through the college process once before, with my son, we know how the waiting can wear on you. First of all, everyone asks – so where are you going to college. Those questions start at Christmas your senior year in high school. Yeah, most schools don’t start sending out acceptances until late March or early April. In teenage years, that’s an eternity.

So the big question, is what do you do while you are waiting?

I did a Google search of “waiting” and came up with 207 billion (that’s with a ‘B’) results. Wow! A LOT of people must be talking about or thinking about waiting.

I went to Amazon and did a search on “Waiting” under children’s books and came up with 267 results. That’s a lot of books about waiting.

This was the book that came up as the #1 selection :


Which was funny, because this book is the very one I received from my parents when I graduated from high school. How cool is that?  Of course at the time, I thought it was kind of cheesy. I mean who gets a high school graduate a children’s book, as a gift?  Still, I remember reading it and thinking, well, that was nice… I guess.

Little did I know that all these years later, that little children’s book was a symbol of things to come.  At the time, being a children’s author was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to be a doctor. What happened? Things change. And now I’m here. But WOW what a journey and what a wonderful job this is. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even as I sit and wait every time I send out a new submission. Isn’t it funny that sometimes while we are waiting, the answer comes to us. Not always in the form that we want, but maybe in something new and different.

As we wait to hear from the colleges my daughter applied to, we discuss all the possibilities. What if she gets in college A? That would mean a big change– a new climate and environment. But college B would mean a really big school with lots of kids. College C, well, that one is great but very expensive. The opportunities are endless, as are the challenges. Whatever her ultimate decision is,  we are confident it will be the best one for her. Waiting can be hard, but in the end, it is worth it because it gives you time and perspective.

And as the saying goes, sometimes the best things come to those who wait. :)

So, tell me, what do you do while you are waiting for things to happen?

****
Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 14 fiction and nonfiction books for kids. She is a true science geek, a mystery book freak, and finds it hard to wait for things — especially  a new book in the series she is reading.
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