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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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What a dinner party taught me about writing fiction

Op-Ed, Writing MG Books

DSC_6119I recently hosted a dinner party. Not an easy task for me – especially since “Mom” got added to my title – so I planned it all out and made list after list (my husband would call it obsessive, I call it organized and prepared).

Ingredients for a great dinner party (and how it compares to fiction):

-       perfect guest list (characters)

-       spotlessly clean house (setting)

-       menu complete with drinks, allergy considerations and kid friendly food (plot)

The day arrived. Everything was going smoothly – according to plan.

One hour before the guests were due to arrive my husband received bad news from his family overseas. (Characters in chaos!)

Half an hour before the guests were due to arrive my seven year old had a melt down and tore apart the house. (Scene altered!)

Ten minutes before the guests were due to arrive the power went out. (Dinner was in the oven, so this messed up the plot in more ways than one…)

Did the party go on?  YESDSC_6109

Did our guests have fun? YES

Did I have fun? Well…

There were moments of worry as we lit candles and then tried kept the kids away from them. There was stress as I pulled pasta out of the freezer to cook on the gas stove and raided my non-working fridge for sauce ingredients. Anxiety as my husband and I listened for the phone in hopes of an update on our hospitalized relative. And every time I tripped over a toy I was reminded that I no longer had control of the situation (and I don’t like losing control).

But… was the evening memorable?  YES!!

I think the event would have been successful (and I would’ve had a few less grey hairs)  if it had gone according to plan. But it wouldn’t have been as memorable. And probably not as fun. It was the unexpected – the extra stress, the extra tension – that made it special.

So, for my next work of fiction I will plan – characters, setting, plot – but I won’t bother with a detailed outline. I will let it unfold in ways that I don’t expect, no matter how hard the task or how grey the hair.

And hopefully  the outcome will be special – more special than anything I could’ve planned on my own.

Yolanda Ridge is the author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012).

4 Comments

Saying No

Holiday, Op-Ed

ProtestThere are a lot of things that my kids do better than me.  But the one that stands out at this hectic time of year? Saying no.

When my kids don’t want to do something, they say no.  When my kids don’t have time to do something, they say no.  When my kids are in a bad mood, they say no.

Me?  I always seem to say yes. Even if I don’t want to. Even if I don’t have time. And even if it puts me in a bad mood.

I know I’m not alone. In this busy world, we are constantly being asked to do just one more “little” thing.

Parents are asked to do a lot of extras; join the PTA, bake for a class party, volunteer for the next field trip, coach a team…. so much that we often do it at the expense of our children.

Authors are asked to do a lot for free; one more blog post, a quick review of something a friend wrote, a writing workshop, an extra author visit… so much that we don’t have time to actually write.

Even Volunteers are asked to do just a little bit more; lead the next fundraising effort, organize a meeting, write the holiday newsletter… so much that we get burned out.

And I know it’s the same for teachers, librarians, and everyone else…

It’s hard to say no, because all these things are important and someone has to do it.  But I’ve started to notice that I’m not doing things as well as I could.  I’m not enjoying things as much as I should.  And I’m not helping anyone by always saying yes.

keep-calm-and-just-say-no-76As we head into 2014, my goal is to practice saying no.  Not because I’m in a bad mood but because I’ve prioritized my time to respect what really matters; my family and my writing.

I hope it doesn’t sound too grinchy, but I’m giving myself the gift of no this season. And I’m extending the present to all of you… parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and readers.

It’s not selfish to say no.  It’s important – and it’s something we can learn from our kids.

 

Yolanda Ridge is the author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012). Ironically, both are about a feisty 12-year-old girl who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

 

3 Comments

Authors Against Terror: More Thoughts

Miscellaneous, Op-Ed

Last week, I raised three questions for authors to consider based on our collective experience with terrorism. We got some informative comments, and I’ve had some additional thoughts as events have continued to unfold here in Boston. And I have a confession to make, later in this post.

What can responsible authors do to help readers deal with actual or potential violence in their lives?

Reading teaches empathy. Children who read learn how to feel for others by immersing themselves in the lives of protagonists. The very nature of what we do helps children learn to care for and understand others. It’s a noble gig.

–Nicole Valentine

Books can be wonderful tools for helping children through their problems, anxieties, and rough patches. As Nicole said, children immerse themselves in the lives of protagonists, and through those protagonists they can explore difficult topics from a safe space. A librarian is often the best person to consult when a child is dealing with bullying, divorce, the arrival of a new baby, the departure of a best friend, or even the death of a loved one.

So what about terrorism?

Terrorists want to disrupt our lives and cause us to fear the places and activities we used to think of as safe. To some extent they have succeeded, even with adults, and especially with the adults in charge of airport security. Children are even more vulnerable than adults, because they have less control over their environment and less experience in determining odds and risks, so we are right to worry about how they can be impacted.

The trouble is, a terror attack is not just one traumatic issue. Victims may be dealing with injuries, permanent disability, lost friends or family members, shocking memories, nightmares, stress, fear, insecurity, and more. No book is going to speak to every victim in the most helpful way. No book is going to turn back the clock and put everything back the way it was. And no book is going to prepare a child beforehand for every possible terror attack they might experience in the future.

Responsible books are the ones that present acts of terror as realistically rare, show that good people are working hard to keep us safe, and let us know that life goes on even after the worst things that can happen.

Can we make things better, or should we just try not to make things any worse?

As writers, we need to [write] with care, compassion, and integrity to developmental needs and not cross the line with information that can increase trauma or secondarily traumatize like the media often does. Knowing how much and how to present is an art and requires research on difficult topics. If you are using difficult subjects and are not an expert, seek out a consultation.

–Diane Kress Hower

Secondary trauma is something to worry about. It’s impossible to entirely avoid. Diane’s advice is important for anyone who is intending to write about terror in a realistic way, but even if we are not, we can never know what might trigger a post-traumatic event in a reader we have never met.

Jerry Spinelli wrote Maniac Magee long before last week’s bombing, and at the time could never have anticipated that someday a child might associate running with the horrible images of the Marathon finish line. I don’t know any children or adults for whom running is now a trigger, by the way, but they certainly could exist. We can imagine any number of possible triggers. In the news today, a child might be exposed to a theory that the elder Tsarnaev brother was a boxer who suffered a drastic personality change, possibly after too many blows to the head, and suddenly any book about boxing could become a trigger for devastating flashbacks. Or a scene with a pressure cooker. Anything we write has the potential to bring back echoes of tragedy in the mind of a particular reader.

We authors do have an advantage over some other media because we are able to deliberate over what we write. We have extra time we can use for research or consultation, as Diane suggests. We can maximize the good we do but there’s no guaranteed way to avoid any chance of causing harm.

Or should this not even be a consideration at all when it comes to telling a good story?

We need stories.

So tomorrow I will start back again. I will get it all as right as I can.

–Lisha Cauthen

Our heroes need villains, and what can establish villainy better or faster than a terror attack? When Darth Vader blows up an entire planet in the original Star Wars movie, it stays with us. When a James Bond villain reveals his or her master plan, it needs to be something a lot more potent than voter fraud or insider trading. Terror is a classic plot device, or at least the fictionalized terror we see in most stories. But thankfully fictional terror is not realistic, because realistic terror makes bad fiction.

Fictional villains need to be smart and resourceful, while real terrorists often succeed through dumb luck and the fact that an overwhelming majority of people are good and trusting of each other. Fictional villains need to have a logical plan and understandable motives, while real terrorists tend to be deranged ideologues who believe they can advance a cause through random violence against innocent people. Our stories promote a larger narrative with positive values and hopeful results, while realistic terror is just random and horrible.

Nobody wants to read about dumb villains stumbling through a half-baked scheme that hurts trusting people for no good reason, but that’s the story that is emerging from the news reports.

So here is my confession.

There’s a fictional terrorist act in one of my middle grade books.

In The Challengers, after Earth first makes contact with aliens, a political movement promotes planetary isolation in order to preserve the traditional cultures of Earth. In the story, some Seclusionist groups are passionate or desperate enough to commit acts of violence. One of them bombs a stadium that was set to host tournament games between Earth and other worlds, on a day when the players are attending an orientation there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this scene over the past week. I’ve been wondering whether it might cause secondary trauma to readers who have been through an actual terror event. And I’ve been feeling all kinds of guilty. But this scene is integral to a larger story about humanity’s most positive attributes, and that larger story has more potential to inspire and uplift than to cause harm.

And of course, since real terror makes bad fiction, my fictional terror scene is not much like real life at all. For starters, my terrorists call in a warning ahead of the detonation, because they don’t want to hurt anyone. My terrorists just want to damage the stadium enough to prevent its use, which makes the bombing an understandable method to further an understandable motive. My terrorists are taken seriously by competent security forces who evacuate the team and ensure that nobody gets hurt. My terrorists are immediately denounced by other Seclusionist groups who share their goals but find their tactics deplorable. And most importantly, my terrorists do not succeed in stopping the Galaxy Games.

I drew strength from rereading that scene this past week, because it models a victory over terrorism. The Games go on, the people refuse to be intimidated, and humanity proves itself to be on the side of goodness except for the few bad apples who try to ruin things for the rest of us.

Stay strong, everyone!

Boston from my office window.

Greg R. Fishbone is the author of the “Galaxy Games” series of midgrade sports and science fiction from Tu Books at Lee & Low Books. Visit him at http://gfishbone.com.

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