Mad For Middle Grade: Why?

Inspired by the Lucky 13′s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” series, we the MG authors of 2014 have banded together to create an unstoppable league of superheroes… or… erm… we decided to create a similar series. Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’ll be here the first Monday of every month! Stay tuned as we discuss the process of middle grade writing, chat about our favorite middle grade books, introduce our own middle grade titles, interview middle grade professionals, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

This month, we’re digging deep into our writerly souls to find our purpose. Our place in the universe, the meaning behind our existences. Okay… we didn’t dig quite that deep, she says as she strokes her imaginary philosopher’s beard (à la Professor Dumbledore, of course).

Question: Why middle grade?

Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEELphoto-1
Amulet Books
When I first started writing fiction in college, I was strictly YA. I’d read a lot of MG, but all my ideas for books seemed to be about teenagers. That all changed when I got a job tutoring kids at an elementary school. I ended up working in schools for the next six years, and the more I talked and played and interacted with my students, the more I wanted to write books for them! While I no longer work with kids, my love for middle grade hasn’t faded.
Skila reading
Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press
I have always been a big reader, but the period of my life when I read the most was probably between the ages of seven and twelve. Looking back, I’m not sure I did anything but read. I’m not surprised that even now I’m still thinking about stories for readers of that age. It’s a magical time for readers – that moment when you first become absorbed in books all by yourself.

Ryan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press
In the middle grade years, one minute it’s all, yay funtimes CRAYONS AND SANDBOXES AND GOGURTS!” and then your voice changes and your best friend is all… GIRLS. And you’re all, you’d rather talk about girls than Gogurt? Do I even KNOW you anymore? And then it’s, ermahgerd, I think I kinda like girls too. Maybe they’ll make me wear a suit and tie next and maybe not eat so many Gogurts. I’m thirTEEN not thirty.

It’s asking a lot of kids to be grown ups, when all they’ve ever known is how to be a kid. It’s a thing that still resonates in me, even now that I AM thirty. Wait, you’re asking me to pay my bills ON TIME?

So in conclusion, that’s why I wrote a middle grade book.

BTW: I’ve never had a Gogurt. They look disgusting.

Kate Kelly
RED ROCK
Curious Fox/Capstone Young Readers
For me it’s because I never fully grew up. I still view the world with that thrill of excitement. I play in the sea and build dens in the woods (I build the best dens –you just watch me) and I wish to fill the world with excitement and adventure.

Patrick Samphire
SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMBpatrick-samphire-large
Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan
So here’s what happened. Back when I was about eight or nine, I picked up a book*, and by the time I put it down again, I was eighteen, and everyone thought I should be grown-up. Except I didn’t want to be. I was having way too much fun in that book. I’d fallen through magical doors, fled from goblins, flown into space, and been a pirate. So I decided to stay. Middle-grade is funny, magical, exciting, and full of wonder. The real question should be, why wouldn’t I want to write it?

* There may have been more than one book…

Rachel SearlesRachelSearlesEars
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan
I write middle grade because I’m still that bored little girl sitting in an ice rink with a stack of library books, waiting for her brother’s hockey game to finish and daydreaming about suddenly having the ability to fly up into the rafters and amaze the crowd with feats of supernatural acrobatics.

Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/PenguinIMG_7238
Middle graders understand funny. If I wrote a scene in which a character has to eat a raw moose, an adult would cringe, but a kid would find it hilarious. Okay, maybe kids would cringe too, but then they’d find it hilarious. (Maybe.) Hmm… perhaps Matilda of MATILDA fame can phrase it better: “Children are not so serious as grown-ups and they love to laugh.” Yes, they love laughter and raw mooses. Meese? Moosen? Mooseronis? Also, don’t ask me why said character has to eat a raw moose. It’s not like I’m the writer… oh, wait…

Michelle Schusterman
I HEART BANDMichelle-Author-2
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin
I’ll say it: kids are smarter than adults. Their view of the world is untainted, so much less convoluted, simpler in the best possible way. Kids are honest, which is what makes them the best readers (and the best critics). That’s part of why I write middle grade – that’s the audience I want to reach. But the other reason is that I want to get my head back in that place again, when you can see things the way they really are, yet still find magic in everything.

Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARSTara Dairman face
Putnam/Penguin
Confession: I dislike the phrase “middle grade”—there’s nothing middling about it! I didn’t even know that term existed until I started querying agents and had to categorize my book. All I knew while I was writing it was that it fit in with my favorite reads from childhood (Roald Dahl, Judy Blume) and adulthood (Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket), and that it wasn’t quite young adult (no angst/kissing!). Turns out that that magical category full of laughs and self-discovery is called middle grade…but I think that “awesome grade” would be a better fit. 🙂

Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/PenguinGayle Rosengren 100x100
I don’t remember the books I read as a teen, but I do remember–vividly–the books I read when I was ten. They whisked me away to places I’d never been and introduced me to friends like Jo March, Anne Shirley, Trixie Belden, Tom Sawyer and countless other characters and stories that made lasting impressions on my heart as well as my mind. They are what inspire me to write middle grade–to try to make the same magical and forever difference in readers’ lives.

Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
SourcebooksIMG_2999
Fact: I am the world’s oldest living tween. And the older I get, the more I realize that they way I observed the world as a middle-grader—with wonder, optimism, and curiosity—is the way I should try to look at it now. The middle-grade years are the age of discovery, and they are magic—even though it’s the time when we start to realize magic isn’t real. (Except it totally is. See, I really am not a grown-up.)

Thanks for tuning in! And here comes the PSA: Have a MG question/topic you’d like us to talk about? Let us hear it in our comments—we’re open to discussing (almost) anything.  Or you could just say hello! We always love hearing from you!

We’ll be back on Monday, July 1st!  See you later, alligator!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who secretly becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous witches who love Toecorn—is forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.
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4 thoughts on “Mad For Middle Grade: Why?

  1. This was the funnest post yet! (and confession, even though I’m debuting with a YA, I heart Middle Grade, too. In fact I may have a WIP that is MG at this very moment!)

  2. Pingback: PARCHED launches! | tara dairman

  3. Pingback: Monday Mix #9 |

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