Jolabokaflod: Middle Grade Authors Share Their Giving Lists

Long before I first heard of the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod (which roughly translates to Christmas Book Flood in English – and is the tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, then sitting together as a family and reading), I created a little winter book tradition of my own.

Every year, right around the beginning of December, I buy myself a book. It’s almost always a hard copy – a rare treat for me – and something that serves only one purpose – to be a total and complete pleasure read. No craft books. No self-help. No keeping up with my genre books. Just pure pleasure coupled with the promise to set aside some time to curl up with a hot chocolate and read just for the pure joy of it.

Because I enjoyed this little treat so much, I decided to extend the giving to family and friends, and created a second tradition – a New Year’s Gift. Every year, I give the people closest to me a book that represents their dreams, goals, or desires for the upcoming year – and may serve as a launching-off spot – or a touchstone – for their plans. I’ve given everything from Axe-Man comics to books of Daily Rituals, to magazine subscriptions – anything that I think might help or inspire the person in the new year.

This year, I’ve added some new people to my giving list,  so I turned to my own personal panel of experts  – my middle grade author friends – for advice. I asked them what middle grade books they were giving as gifts this holiday season. Here are their suggestions:

Sally J. Pla, author of The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine (coming Feb. 6, 2018!)

I think Xmas/the holidays are a great time to gift picture books, even to adults. The best of them are such beautiful works of art.There are two PBs I’ll gift to young families, because I think they should be in every kid’s library. PEOPLE, a classic PB by Peter Speier visually depicts the beautiful physical diversity of people around the world — spreads it out in a cornucopia of hundreds of images of noses, ears, hands, outfits, etc. The result is this beautiful mozaic of how wide and diverse and amazing the world is. Then: (2) COME WITH ME by my friend Holly McGhee is a sweet sensitive story about how even the tiniest, smallest acts of kindness can help address the bad stuff in the world. As for MG novels to gift: there are far too many wonderful ones to name, and I usually like to customize the book to the particular kid. But one particular Christmas-themed warm-and-fuzzy book that I think will have great general appeal is Karina Glaser’s wonderful THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET.

 

 

Melissa Roske, author of Kat Greene Comes Clean

For the holidays this year, I will be bestowing copies of Jonathan Rosen’s hilarious MG adventure, NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES, on young readers here and abroad. Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny, CUDDLE BUNNIES has a likable and hugely relatable main character (Devin Dexter), plus slew of colorful supporting characters – including a sock-puppet-wielding warlock named Herb. I can’t recommend this title enough. It’s BUN-tastic! Hoppy holidays!

 

Supriya Kelkar, author of Ahimsa

I’m giving REFUGEE by Alan Gratz to an older MG reader. It is a powerful, gripping, eye-opening story that I am sure she will not be able to put down.

 

 

Jarrett Lerner, author of Enginerds

Just a FEW of the MG books I’m gifting — 1. Jodi Kendall’s THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY. Not only is it a wonderful (and wonderfully written) book, it is simply perfect for this time of year. It is full of warm, utterly lovely family scenes, and reading them serves as an always-welcome reminder of what matters most during this holiday season. 2. Caroline Carlson’s THE WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE. Caroline’s prose sparkles, and her storytelling prowess is second-to-none. I absolutely loved her previous series, and was thrilled to hear she was penning a mystery. It is, as expected, impeccable. And who doesn’t love to curl up with a finely written, cleverly crafted mystery during their days off? 3. Jan Gangei’s THE WILD BUNCH. I didn’t keep count, but I’m fairly certain that this is the book that made me laugh out loud the most this year. Its zany characters leap off of the page, and get themselves into one hilariously outrageous situation after the next. Amidst all the silliness, however, there is a subtle thread of seriousness, there for the interested reader to unpack and consider.

           

 

Janet Sumner Johnson, author of The Last Great Adventure of the PB & J Society.

My sons have been dying to read the 3rd book in the Bounders series, THE FORGOTTEN SHRINE, by Monica Tesler. It releases on Dec. 12th, so perfect timing for Christmas!

 

 

Kristin Gray, author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

My daughter (10) adores graphic novels, so she is getting ALL’s FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Victoria Jamieson and PASHMINA by Nidhi Chanani.

 

    

What books are you planning on giving this season  – to yourself, loved ones, or even a perfect stranger? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Patricia Bailey

Patricia Bailey is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. She blogs here and at her website www.patriciabaileyauthor.com.


What to Do When Your Internal Editor Won’t Shut Up & Let You Write

My internal editor hates me. He won’t let me write a sentence without making me go back and reread it multiple times, weighing each action, word choice, and punctuation mark. (Yes, he just made sure I used the Oxford comma in the previous sentence.)

My Internal Editor of Evil has haunted my subconscious ever since I read Mindy Alyse Weiss’s post about “Fast Drafting.” In her post, Mindy mentioned the problem some writers face when they get bogged down in edit-as-they-go writing. This is me. If fast drafting is like a rushing river of creativity, my highly refined “Sloth Drafting” technique flows like congealed bacon grease thickened with corn starch. My internal editor just won’t shut up. In fact, he’s already made me delete two entire paragraphs of my post just to get to this sentence.

Anyway, my inability to overcome my internal editor made me curious:

How many other writers are Sloth Drafters?

In search of an answer to this question, I conducted groundbreaking research using a highly refined scientific technique—I did a poll on Facebook.

It ends up that about half the folks who contribute to the MUF blog have internal editors like mine. Their writing is a slow process with constant tweaks and revisions along the way. Fast-drafting writers zoom past and stick out their tongues while we Sloth Drafters are busy rearranging adjectives and deleting superfluous uses of the word that.

This brings me to what I want to share today—a writing trick for what to do when your internal editor won’t shut up. Of course, I have to start with a disclaimer: I’ve totally given up on writing fast. That’s why my anti-internal-editor trick intentionally avoids any actual writing. Let me explain.

When I feel my creativity lagging and I need to generate ideas, I know I need to turn off my internal editor. But at the same time, I remain stuck in my Sloth-Drafting rut. In these times, I’ve found myself moving more and more often from text to talk. I don’t write a scene; I speak it.

Sometimes I use the voice recorder on my phone. Other times I pull out a good ol’ cassette recorder. Regardless of the device employed, my goal is the same—to adlib a story or scene or snippet of dialogue in a sort of just-for-me spoken improv. I hit “RECORD” and riff away, seeing where it leads. My recording may only last for a minute or two, but I’ve found the lack of written words allows my ideas and creativity to flow more freely. Then—when my recorded riff is finished—I go back and listen. I write down what I’ve recorded, allowing my internal editor to have his way.

If you have another writing tip or trick for overcoming your internal editor, feel free to share it in the comments below. But even if you don’t have anything to share, if you’re a Sloth Drafter like me, don’t be afraid to embrace it. You’re not alone. Sloth Drafting isn’t evil. Your internal editor is part of who you are as a writer. And if you need to shut him up once in a while? . . . Well, just remember that you can  start talking, so your internal editor can’t.

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T. P. Jagger

Along with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original, free readers’ theater scripts for middle-grade classrooms. For T. P.’s 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course, check him out on Curious.com.


Natalie Rompella on OCD, #OwnVoices, and Sled Dog Racing

Today we welcome author and MUF contributor Natalie Rompella to the blog. We asked her to speak about the #OwnVoices movement in #kidlit, and how it relates to her latest book, Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners.

The character, Ana Morgan, in my book Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners, has obsessive-compulsive disorder.  She obsesses about germs, and she washes compulsively. At the start of the book, we learn that Ana has OCD. She sees a therapist and seems to be working through her obsessions and compulsions. However, her life faces many changes, and her OCD flares up.

The idea of Ana having OCD wasn’t planned. That’s just what came out as I began writing. I’m often influenced by other research I’ve done. The idea of sled dog racing came from a book I wrote on sports that started in the United States. I had also just finished writing a nonfiction book for teens called It Happened to Me: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Scarecrow Press, 2009). I couldn’t get either topic out of my mind and recycled them for this book.

Although I didn’t have in mind who I wanted my readers to be when I started writing the book, I’m glad I tackled this topic. While writing my nonfiction book on OCD, I reached out to teens, hoping to get narratives about what it was like for them living with the disorder. It was very difficult to find people with OCD who were willing to share their experience. But I think it’s important for others with OCD to see that they’re not alone. And I think it’s just as important for people without OCD to learn about the disorder. I hope that in my book, I help the reader get inside Ana’s head and feel what obsessive thoughts are like and how powerless you can feel to them.

Books that fall under the category of #OwnVoices are written by someone who is from the same marginalized group as the protagonist in the book. Like my character, Ana, I have suffered from OCD. Although I feel it is under control, I will find it gets worse when I’m stressed or overtired. I have not had it spiral out of control as it does for Ana, but I was able to draw on my own experiences with both OCD and anxiety when writing her story. I vividly remember having a flare up on an airplane. When I got home, I was able to write up the big OCD scene in my book. The whole idea of knowing that your brain is throwing out these unwanted thoughts but not being entirely sure whether to ignore the thoughts or act on them is from experience. (For instance, having the desire to check that you turned off the oven even though you’re pretty sure you did already check but not feeling 100% positive you actually did. So you check you turned it off. And then, as you’re walking away, part of your brain wonders, Did you really check that it was turned off? I’m not sure you actually did, so you check once more. This process may repeat numerous times.)

I want kids who have OCD to be able to relate to Ana. They know what it’s like to have these unwanted thoughts. They can see they’re not alone.

Author Natalie Rompella

Natalie Rompella is the author of eleven trade books including Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press, 2017) and The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House Publishers, 2018) as well as twenty leveled readers and workbooks on a variety of topics, including STEM, text evidence, common core, and science fair experiments. Natalie lives in the Chicago suburbs. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatalieRompella or find her at www.natalierompella.com.

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Andrea Pyros

Andrea Pyros is the author of MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK, a middle grade novel about friends, crushes, food allergies, and a rock band named The EpiPens.