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Mad For Middle Grade: Coming Up Next

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade!

This is our VERY LAST POST! Thank you, readers, for taking this middle grade debut journey with us–we’ve been so extraordinarily grateful for all of your support. Since this is our last post, we wanted talk about what’s happening on the horizon for us, so you’ll be able to find us in the future!

Question: Talk about what’s coming next for you!

StolenMoon-1Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Rachel Searles is prepping for the January 27th release of her sequel, THE STOLEN MOON (which has already received a starred review from Kirkus, hooray!). She’s excited to add that THE LOST PLANET (available in paperback Jan. 27th) has been chosen for the 2015-2016 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. Rachel will be spending the next year working on new projects and seeking the elusive balance between making time for writing and caring for a new baby. Keep up with Rachel at www.rachelsearles.com or @RachelSearles

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Matt LondonUnknown
THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin

Matt London is hard at work to bring you the continuing adventures of the Lane family. Book 2 in the series, THE 8TH CONTINENT: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, comes out February 24th, 2015. Book 3, BORN TO BE WILD, will be released later that year, in August. Beyond that, well, let’s just say there’s a continent’s worth of stories to tell. In the meantime, you can find Matt at www.themattlondon.com or on Twitter @themattlondon.

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Paul Durham
THE LUCK UGLIES
HarperCollins51wHT34zbrL

This fall and winter Paul Durham is visiting schools and bookstores throughout New England to talk about THE LUCK UGLIES. The second book in the trilogy, THE LUCK UGLIES: FORK TONGUE CHARMERS, arrives on March 17, 2015, and he will be packing his bags for national tour stops in far-flung places such as Houston, Austin, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon. In the meantime, Paul is writing the third book in the series, which will be released in Spring 2016. You can check in on Paul’s Luck Uglies news and occasional ramblings at www.pauldurhambooks.com, on facebook at www.facebook.com/pauldurhambooks, or on twitter @pauldurhambooks. 

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Louise Galveston is excited to announce that By the Grace of Todd is a 2015-2016 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee and will be available in paperback next month (Jan. 2015). The little Toddlians set off to find a more responsible god in the sequel, In Todd We Trust, which releases on St. Patrick’s Day. Louise and her family will be welcoming a new little person into their lives early this summer, but the title of that masterpiece is yet to be determined. You can keep up with Louise’s news and schedule of appearances at www.bythegraceoftodd.com and www.louisegalveston.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter @LouiseGalveston

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Kate HanniganCC2 Summer Showers Cover short medium
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

Kate Hannigan will be coming out with a sequel to her early middle-grade novel CUPCAKE COUSINS (Disney-Hyperion) in June 2015. Titled CUPCAKE COUSINS: SUMMER SHOWERS, it follows more adventures with Willow and Delia on their lakeside vacation. The cousins are ready to help with Aunt Rosie’s baby shower, but with Willow’s hand injured, no one seems to think they can do anything in the kitchen. They face meddling big sisters, a County Fair cooking contest, lost family heirlooms, and more. Book 3 in the series publishes in September 2016.

Detectives Assistant cover websiteKate’s historical fiction for middle-grade readers, THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT, publishes in April 2015 with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers–marking the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Set just before the Civil War and inspired by America’s first real-life female detective, Kate Warne, it tells the story of 11-year-old Nell who untangles her own family’s mysteries while helping out her aunt with her detective work. It features ciphers and puzzles, as well as hair-raising thrills, as Nell and Kate Warne take part in cases that have nation-changing consequences.

Visit Kate online at http://KateHannigan.com.

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Tara DairmanStars of Summer__FINAL CVR
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

For Tara Dairman, next year is looking to be just as delicious as this one was! Gladys Gatsby’s restaurant-reviewing adventures will continue in THE STARS OF SUMMER (sequel to ALL FOUR STARS), which comes out on May 5, 2015. You can find out more about it, add it on GoodReads, or preorder it here: http://taradairman.com/2014/10/14/sequel-title-cover-reveal-the-stars-of-summer/

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

With her debut year in the rearview window, Jen is happy to kick back and enjoy the role of “established author” (hahahahahahaha).  Jen’s new series You’re Invited  (co-written with Gail Nall)YOU'RE INVITED launches with book one on May 19th and follows four tween girls who form a party-planning business out of their abandoned sailboat clubhouse.  Needless to say, the parties do NOT go as planned. It’s been described as “hitting that sweet spot between Babysitter’s Club and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Also publishing next summer is Jen’s YA with HarperImpulse entitled Map to the Stars. It tells the story of a down-to-earth girl stuck accompanying a teen star on the European promotional tour of his new movie. A “momager”, an annoying assistant, a security team, and rabid fans are plenty to navigate as the two explore a romance, but when the paparazzi hits the scene, things get really sticky.

Both are available for preorder here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jen+malone

You can follow more adventures at www.jenmalonewrites.com or @jenmalonewrites

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

This has been an incredible year with so many “firsts” that it’s hard to imagine another time that will Unknown-2equal it for excitement, unless…*drum roll*… it’s the release of my second book! My middle grade novel, COLD WAR ON MAPLEWOOD STREET will be published (again by Putnam/Penguin/Random House) in early August.  It’s about 12 year-old Joanna’s experiences during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and it speaks to growing up in a world full of uncertainty.

In addition, I’ll be kicking off the New Year with a very special event in Batavia, Illinois at Grace McWayne Elementary School, as the featured author at their first ever Family Reading Night.  On February 5th I’ll be signing books at the annual WSRA  (Wisconsin State Reading Association) conference in Milwaukee. And other events are in the works, so it’s already plain to see that 2015 is going to be yet another amazing year.  I couldn’t be happier!

Gayle would love for you to visit her website at www.gaylerosengren.com and follow her on Twitter @GayleRosengren

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HookCover_frontonly_72Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Heidi Schulz will not be hanging up her cutlass anytime soon. Her sequel to Hook’s Revenge, Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, will be out next fall followed by her picture book debut, Giraffes Ruin Everything, in Spring 2016. Other future plans include finally getting around to painting the no-longer-new trim around her windows and eating pie. Catch up with her on twitter (@HeidiSchulz) or on HeidiSchulzBooks.com

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks
51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Jen Swann Downey is looking forward to the rapid regeneration of her fingertips which sadly wore away to bloody stumps during the drafting for THE NINJA LIBRARIANS: A SWORD IN THE STACKS. The sequel will release in late 2015, a few months after the paperback release of the first book in the series, THE NINJA LIBRARIANS: THE ACCIDENTAL KEYHAND. She is also hoping to remember to frolic more along dark moonlit streets, and solve all of her family’s single sock riddles. Thanks to the readers of the OneFourKidLit posts for paying attention to all of us as we rode out on our book steeds. Hope we gave something back. Come on over and visit at www.jenswanndowney.com or https://www.facebook.com/JenSwannDowney

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Unknown-3Jennifer Torres
THE BRINY DEEP MISTERIES
Speeding Star

These days Jennifer Torres arrives at her desk promptly at  5 a.m. each morning (before the kids get up) to work on her next project, a middle-grade fantasy/mystery called SPELL’S CANOE. She continues to visit schools, libraries and bookstores promoting her debut series, THE BRINY DEEP MYSTERIES.  Jennifer is also working on a new series of biographies for Rosen Publishers to be released in 2015. Keep up with Jennifer at www.authorjennifertorres.com and on Twitter @Jenn__Torres.

 

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Rebecca BehrensWhen Audrey Met Alice final cover
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Rebecca Behrens is looking forward to Audrey meeting Alice again, when the paperback edition of When Audrey Met Alice is released in May 2015. Her next book, Summer of Lost and Found, will be published by Egmont USA in early 2016. She has a short story, “Thatagirl!” running in Scholastic Scope next spring–and another one inCricket, too! In the meantime, she’s visiting schools and libraries, teaching workshops, and (slowly) writing something new. Follow her on twitter (@rebeccabehrens) or visit her online at www.rebeccabehrens.com.

 

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin
TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942

Here’s what’s coming up next for Witchling Lauren:

1. Paperback release of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches in August 2015.
2. Book #2 scheduled to release in early 2016. While there is no definitive title (yet), Lauren can tell you that it’s about a whimsically weird school for thieves, muggers, robbers, burglars, crooks, and otherwise intolerable criminals. She’s hoping that Pilfer Academy will steal your heart. *ba-dum-tss*
3. Practicing her evil laughter
Muahahahahahaha*hacking coughs*

Follow her misadventures at http://laurenmagaziner.com/ or on twitter @laurenmagaziner.

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caminarSkila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Skila Brown is hard at work on her next middle grade story. In the mean time, she’ll have two new books out in the spring of 2016 with Candlewick Press: a picture book collection of shark poems, Slickety Quick, and a verse novel for teens about the ill-fated Donner Party, With the End in Sight.

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Dana Alison Levy18769364
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

Dana Alison Levy is delighted to continue romping with the Fletchers! The sequel, A FLETCHER FAMILY SUMMER, is due out spring 2016. When not trying to keep Sam, Jax, Eli, and Frog out of trouble, Dana will be working on more books for kids and teens, and might occasionally remember to do laundry. You can find her at www.danaalisonlevy.com, where she rarely talks about herself in the third person.

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SecretHumofaDaisy paperbackTracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Tracy Holczer’s novel, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, releases in paperback on May 1, 2015, and she is fiercely working on novel number two. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SMALL THINGS is about eleven-year-old Samantha Rossi who writes down small observations about life in order to face all the big things she can’t quite handle. Like her surgeon father coming home from Vietnam a different person, and her best friend choosing to start a Stewardess Club instead of joining the Odyssey Project the way they’d planned. It’s a story about heroes, the big and the small. It’s due out in May, 2016.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

Laura Marx Fitzgerald is hard at work at her second novel, due out in 2016 from Dial/Penguin. Tentatively titled THE GALLERY, this middle-grade mystery takes us to New York in the Roaring Twenties where a young maid discovers an heiress’s secrets through her mysterious art collection. Laura is also busy with school visits and field trips, where she is delighted to share the many real-life mysteries of the art world with elementary and middle school kids. Visit Laura at her website LauraMarxFitzgerald.com for more about writing, art, and history.

Laura looks forward to the paperback release and audiobook releases of UNDER THE EGG in spring 2015.

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Q&H cover from onlineAdriana Brad Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Adriana Brad Schanen has been visiting schools and book clubs with her debut early middle grade novel, Quinny & Hopper, which was selected as a TLA Bluebonnet Award Reading List book and picked up by Scholastic for 2015 book fairs and newsletters. She has several MG and YA projects in progress.

Check out her website in early 2015 for official news of the publication of her second book — she’s bursting to share it! adrianabradschanen.com

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HopeIsRobin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Robin Herrera is currently finishing up what will hopefully be her second book, a humorous young adult novel set in 1990. In the meantime, she’ll continue to edit comics and graphic novels. You might catch her at the annual ALA conference in San Francisco, but for the most part she’ll be staying home in Oregon. 2015 will probably be the year Robin goes to the dentist. She is not looking forward to it.

Visit her online at robinherrera.com or on Twitter @herreracus.

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Well, that’s it from us, folks! Thanks so much for tuning in this past year and a half, and be sure to check out our archives for more of our splendiferous posts.

And now we shall ceremoniously pass the baton to our 2015 middle grade debut friends in the Fearless Fifteeners group! May your journeys be full of wonder and MAGIC!

TTFN–Ta ta for now!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Crunching Numbers

Welcome back to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!

This post is going to be a bit… unconventional. We’re pulling out all the stops here. And by all the stops, I mean: all the STATS. This post is all about comparing our publishing journeys, and we’re about to prove THERE IS NO NORMAL IN PUBLISHING!!!!

Here a bit of information about this post before we reveal our numbers:

  • 15 authors participated
  • All the participants were 2014 middle grade debut authors
  • Each author was allowed to opt in or out of whichever questions he/she choses
  • All data is presented anonymously

And without further ado:

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Highest Word Count: 78,000 words
Lowest Word Count: 19,000 words
Average Word Count: 53,000 words

Genre?
7 Contemporary
4 Fantasy
2 Historical Fiction
1 Mystery
1 Novel in Verse
1 Science Fiction

Which publishers?
2 books from Abrams
2 books from Candlewick
2 books from Disney-Hyperion
1 book from HarperCollins
1 book from Macmillan
4 books from Penguin
1 book from Random House
1 book from Simon & Schuster
1 book from Sourcebooks

 

ABOUT AGENTS

Do you have an agent?
Yes: 14
No: 0
Not when the book sold, but yes now: 1

How many query letters did you send out?
Most: 74 Query Letters
Least: 1 Query Letter
Average: 22 Query Letters
A further breakdown:
8 authors had between 1 and 15 query letters.
2 authors had between 16 and 30 query letters.
2 authors had between 31 and 45 query letters.
2 authors had between 46 and 60 query letters.
1 author had over 61 query letters.

How long were you querying?
Longest time: 10 months
Shortest time: 1 week
Further breakdown:
3 authors queried for less than 1 month.
8 authors queried between 1 and 4 months.
4 authors queried between 5 and 10 months. 

How many offers did you receive from agents?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 2
Three offers: 2
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 2

How long was the editorial process with your agent?
Longest time: 9 months
Shortest time: No editorial process
Average time: 2 months

 

ABOUT THE BOOK DEAL

How long were you on submission to publishers?
Longest submission: 2 years
Shortest submission: 9 days
Further breakdown:
3 books were on submission less than 1 month.
7 books were on submission between 1 and 4 months.
2 books were on submission between 5 and 12 months.
2 books were on submission longer than 12 months.

How many offers did you receive from publishers?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 4
Three offers: 1
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 1

How many books did your publisher buy?
One book: 9
Two books: 4
Three books: 2

What was the deal range?
10 Nice Deals
2 Very Nice Deals
2 Good Deals
1 Significant Deal

How long was the time between the book sale and the book release?
Longest wait: 33 months (A little less than 3 years)
Shortest wait: 14 months (A little more than 1 year)
Average wait: 21 months (A little less than 2 years)

 

ABOUT THE STORY

The numbers below indicate those authors who responded YES to the following questions.

Does your book have:
A girl protagonist? 9
A boy protagonist? 6
Any school scenes? 8
A character who cries? 13
A character who’s a writer? 5
A character with red hair? 3
A chosen one? 0
At least one orphan? 3
Siblings? 10
A first crush? 5
Kissing? 3
Magic? 4
Dogs? 5
Cats? 3
Bunnies? 3
Any references to real-life history? 10
Any references to real-life pop culture? 8

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Thanks for tuning in! Hope you were as interested in some of these numbers as we were!

We will return on Monday December 1st for our LAST Mad For Middle Grade segment. *snozzes into a handkerchief*  The wheels are already in motion, and it’s going to be a great post–so tune in next time!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Villainous Tricks and Treats

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!

What’s not to love about the Halloween time? There are pumpkin spiced lattes, candy, costumes, hayrides, and most importantly… SCARY, EVIL BEINGS! There’s a real art to creating a convincing villain, so we’re here today to shed some advice on how to approach the task.

Question: How do you create good antagonists or roadblocks for characters? Share your villainous tricks and treats! 

Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

2014-09-29 16.37.53

The scariest villains are the ones we carry inside us. Being the person we want to be in the face of serious challenges can feel impossible, and in some moments is impossible. But those bad moments only define us if we let them. It seems like it should be easy to let go of the memories of things we’re not proud of and move forward as a better person. But feelings like envy, jealousy, anger, fear, doubt, and insecurity are clingy little dingleberries. Defeating our inner villain who wants everything his way right now without having to fight for it or compromise can be our greatest battle. Yet winning has the kind of long-term effects that can create a life we’re proud of—even if sometimes we just have to through some cow poop to get it out of our systems.

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHERDAL_Costume_OneFour
Delacorte/Random House

Personally, I find it far more difficult to write good villains than good heroes. After all, a good villain should be bad, sure, but also interesting, complicated, and have a story of his or her own. In THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER I didn’t really have a villain, (though some might have thought of Mr. Nelson that way at first). But I have worked on other stories with a more traditional bad guy (or bad gal!) and I think the only “trick” to writing a good one is to make her (or him) as full a character as possible. Does she love her dog? Does she laugh at puns? Does he only pursue his evil goal because of a desire to help someone else? If an author works to understand the villain readers are “treated” to a far better story!

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Lauren Magaziner
Lauren Witch HatTHE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Writing a villain for middle grade can be especially difficult. Without enough villainous “oomph,” an antagonist would be boring and give no stakes to your story–but at the same time, a villain can easily become too scary or menacing. I think the key is to balance a little bit of humor with the more threatening parts. For example, in one moment in The Only Thing Worse Than Witches the dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker makes children stand on their heads until their words come out backwards. It’s a funny kind of threat–something that is actually rather horrible when you really think about it, but so entrenched in humor that it feels almost safe. Almost. (Muahahaha.)

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Robin Herrera
2014-10-01 04_19_43HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

I hope that people are surprised to learn that Mr. Savage, one of the “villains” of HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, is based on myself. Creating a good villain starts with understanding your villain. The villain is the hero of their own story! In Mr. Savage’s world, he is the heroic teacher hired to shape and mold the minds of young 4th and 5th graders. Star Mackie is the villain of his world, and she’s about to start a rebellion in his own classroom! The only way to stop it is to assert himself in front of his students, belittling Star in the process. When you think about it that way, Star is kind of a huge jerk. (Just kidding! Mr. Savage still wins the jerk award.)

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Louise Galvestonmongeepoo
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Bad guys aren’t born, they become. Understanding what warped a villain’s personality is key, even if it takes a while to be revealed. In By the Grace of Todd, Max is evil incarnate to Todd and his tiny Toddlians. But in the sequel, In Todd We Trust, we see that Max is terrified of his big brother, and get a glimpse of the treatment he’s faced that causes him to torment others. I also believe bad guys can be redeemed, as in Ernie, Todd’s elementary school nemesis who does an about face in middle school and becomes Todd and Duddy’s buddy. (I’m dressed as Mongee Poo, a hero from Todd’s favorite anime series Dragon Sensei. Hoo hoo hi-yah!)

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Matt London
10362515_927717525241_7320697419049827655_n THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin

I’ve always believed that what makes readers LOATHE a villain is when the baddie gets away with something terrible. So I try to make sure my villains get away with everything! The villain of THE 8TH CONTINENT is Vesuvia Piffle, the ten year old super secret CEO of the Condo Real Estate Corporation. She is rotten! But she is also convinced she’s doing the right thing. And that makes her all the scarier.

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Ryan Gehart
THERE WILL BE BEARSbearrcoat
Candlewick Press

It would appear that Sandy, the vicious grizzly bear prowling the Bridger-Teton National Park who killed two hunters from Ohio would be the villain in BEARS, but she’s anything but. Tyson wants nothing more than to see her. It’s everything that’s getting in the way of the trip that’s antagonizing him. It’s the realities of adulthood, of his beloved grandfather who was supposed to take him to the Tetons get put into a nursing home instead. And as Tyson puts it: being an adult sucks.

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Two more posts left in our Mad For Middle Grade series! Are there any middle grade topics you want to hear about? Let us know!

See you on Monday November 3rd! And remember: the best way to stop an evil villain in his or her tracks is a pie in the face (……or maybe just a fantastic protagonist).

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Getting Schooled

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!

Back to school reads are HERE! Curl up with one of our September releases:

Torres_BrinyDeep

THE DISAPPEARING: The Briny Deep Mysteries #1
by Jennifer Torres
Release date: September 1
Goodreads

SPIRIT’S KEY
by Edith Cohn
Release date: September 9
Goodreads

I HEART BAND: CRUSHES, CODAS, AND CORSAGES
by Michelle Schusterman
Release date: September 11
Goodreads

HOOK’S REVENGE
by Heidi Schulz
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

THE 8TH CONTINENT
by Matt London
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

Three cheers for awesome books from Jennifer, Edith, Michelle, Heidi, and Matt! Give these great reads to the elementary schooler in your life to make him/her very happy… or tuck into a corner and rip through these adventuresome tales yourself while the kids are at school (muahahaha)!

Speaking of back to school…. today our characters are getting schooled! We’re here to talk about how characters learn, grow, and change throughout our novels, both in school and outside it!

Question: How do your characters learn and grow, either inside or outside the classroom? 

Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

In SPIRIT’S KEY, Spirit lives on Bald Island and attends school in a one-room classroom with all the island’s kids. Their teacher Mrs. Dialfield tries to keep them all on the same topic but at different levels. Lately Spirit is having trouble learning because she is grieving the loss of her beloved dog Sky. Mrs. Dialfield is kind and understanding and always smiles at Spirit even when she comes in late and doesn’t turn in her assignments. Mrs. Dialfield is also the only one who believes her when Spirit says she sees the ghost of her dog. “Lots of impossible things happen on this island,” Mrs. Dialfield says. Indeed, Spirit and Sky have a book full of adventures to come!

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

School is not exactly Gladys Gatsby’s favorite place–she doesn’t have many friends, and the lunches her parents pack for her are anything but inspiring. That all changes, though, when new teacher Ms. Quincy takes over Gladys’s sixth-grade class. Ms. Quincy convinces Gladys to embrace her passion for cooking and write about it for the statewide sixth-grade essay contest…but even she has no idea how much that one assignment is about to revolutionize Gladys’s life.

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Heidi Schulz
HookCover_frontonly_72 HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Jocelyn, the only daughter of Captain Hook, hates finishing school. What good will lessons in embroidery, dance, French, and manners be to the fierce pirate she intends to become? She wants to be out having adventures now, not decorating pincushions!

When Jocelyn is charged with avenging her father on the Neverland crocodile, she happily says goodbye to a school and all its useless information. It’s not like knowing which fork to use will save her life one day. Or will it?

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

I don’t have any scenes set in school in At Your Service (well, except for one on the steps outside, where she gets picked up by the hotel limo amid immense jealousy from her classmates!) but I can say that my main character Chloe gets taken to school in a big way by a trio of visiting royals. Chloe is all about following proper protocol (no matter how weird it feels to say “Excuse me, Your Royal Highness Princess Ingrid of Somerstein” to anineyear-old, every time she needs to ask a basic question) but she won’t get the respect or approval of these kids until she figures out how to see past her official role as junior concierge and to recognize the ordinary kids inside the royal trappings. Sometimes a VIP would rather the emphasis on the “P” than the ”VI” and Chloe will take some hard knocks before learning that!

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Adriana Brad Schannen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-HyperionQ&H cover from online

New neighbors Quinny and Hopper overcome a disastrous introduction to begin a magical summer friendship. The kind you never forget. It’s a summer full of juggling lessons, accordion playing, the biggest mud puddle ever — and the screwball adventure of reuniting an eccentric homeless chicken with her far-away family.

But then summer ends, and fall brings new haircuts, new schedules — and new anxieties. Quinny is excited to start 3rd grade, but grows unsettled by gossip about all the changes reportedly ahead, especially new “rules” regarding boy-girl friendships. Hopper, too, worries that once they get to school, everything will change. Especially when Quinny finds out the awful secret he’s been hiding all summer. Let’s just say neither of them gets much sleep the night before that first day of school!

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Matt London
THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin8thcontinentcover

One of the most important elements of drama is Change, and learning is one of the primary ways storytellers like us have our characters change. Each main character in THE 8TH CONTINENT gets schooled in a different way. Rick may be a super-genius, and Evie may be street smart (but hate school), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have much to learn from each other, and from the world around them. Teachers are key here. Their father teaches them. So does their father’s old research partner, Doctor Grant. For Rick and Evie, these teachers are even more important than their instructors at the International School for Exceptional Students. Sure, at school Rick and Evie may skydive into social studies, eat sushi in the cafeteria, and enjoy video game design classes, but that doesn’t mean school can’t be a drag, too.

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

The main character must learn and change in the course of any successful story. In What the Moon Said, Esther learns academics in the two-room schoolhouse but also, by virtue of the much smaller class and school size, she learns much more about her fellow students’ families and personal circumstances than she ever did at her large Chicago school. At home, Ma is constantly “schooling” Esther in superstitions and signs. And throughout the story Esther is learning from her experiences and observations, so that her desperate need early in the book to hear “I love you” from Ma is far less urgent by the story’s end, because Esther has learned that it is actions, not words, that matter most.

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Louise GalvestonBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Todd and his even dorkier best friend, Duddy, are dreading the first day of middle school where the bullies are sure to only get bigger and meaner than the ones they’ve left behind. But when man-child and mega bully, Max, befriends Todd, it looks like his loser days are behind him…and so is his friendship with Duddy. Todd learns the hard way that life is a lot rougher on the other side of puberty, and in the end, the coolest person you can be is yourself.

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Robin Herrera
HopeIs HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Pepperwood Elementary is not for the light-hearted.

In her first three months at school, Star Mackie learns that blue mullets make you stand out, that sometimes the way you hear a name isn’t how it’s spelled, and that teachers can be just as mean as students. But Star also learns about the Mayflower, something like 70 new words, and everything about Emily Dickinson. She also learns that Emily Dickinson is not the only poet worth reading, and that The Trailer Park Club is a terrible name for a club.
Pepperwood Elementary is a pretty tough school, as it turns out, but Star’s getting the hang of it.

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When Audrey Met Alice final coverRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

First Daughter Audrey is rather lonely at Friends School—the fancy private academy she attends in Washington, DC. (You might be lonely, too, if Secret Service agents followed you around the campus!) She finds friendship and understanding from an unexpected source: Alice Roosevelt’s long-hidden diary. It’s through reading about Alice’s hijinks, struggles, and heartbreak that Audrey learns how to be herself—no matter what House she’s living in.

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Lauren Magaziner
TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942 THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

What Rupert learns in the classroom:
1. Never make eye contact with Mrs. Frabbleknacker, or she will most certainly call on you. And if she calls on you, she will make you stand upside down for an hour . . . or something equally awful.
2. He is very, very unlucky to be placed in Class B with dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker.

What Rupert learns outside the classroom:
1. With a great friend, he can get through anything, even Mrs. Frabbleknacker’s class.
2. Being a witchling’s apprentice was not at ALL what he expected. (Like brewing egg salad potion? Really??)

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER18769364
Delacorte/Random House

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER starts in September, and follows the four Fletcher boys through the school year. While each boy learns a lot in school, the real lessons they learn are about themselves. Sam learns that it’s okay to have more than one passion; Eli learns that being smart doesn’t always mean being right; Jax learns that people are not always what they seem, or what you hope or fear; and Frog…? Well, Frog learns that real and imaginary worlds can sometimes overlap, causing utter mayhem! Hopefully, the lesson all the Fletchers learn is that they can count on their family to make them laugh, even when there’s cat barf to clean up.

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With only three segments left, are there any middle grade topics you want to hear about? Let us know in the comments!

We’ll be back on Monday October 6th. In a while, crocodile!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Behind the Scenes

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!

Looking for a summer beach read? Then look no further than our adorable, delicious, delightful July releases:

ALL FOUR STARS
by Tara Dairman
Release date: July 10
Goodreads

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
by Dana Alison Levy
Release date: July 22
Goodreads

Hooray for Tara and Dana’s spectacular debuts! If you haven’t read them yet, then RUN–don’t walk–to your nearest bookstore or library! Trust me.

Ever wonder why authors choose particular names, include certain scenes, or write about specific topics? Want to learn some little-known facts about the writing of our books? Allow us to give you a sneak peek into some behind the scenes moments!

Question: Tell a behind the scenes story about your book!

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar

Caminar is based on actual events, but since the story is fiction, I decided not to use real place names. Instead, I made up names, offering a nod to significant words and places. The name of the camp that the rebels are travelling towards, for example, is Ixchandé, which is inspired by Iximché, a place that was once the capital base of the Kaqchikel Maya around the time that the Spaniards invaded. And during the time of Carlos’s story, Iximché held an important meeting where many Guatemalans declared that they would organize and rise up against the militant government. 

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet BooksHopeIs

I don’t usually name my characters after people I know. USUALLY. But when I was writing the book that would become HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, I was also working at an elementary school. One of my favorite students was a kindergartner named Gloria. I worked one-on-one with her a lot and loved how silly and sweet she was. So when I needed a name for Star’s bubbly, sugar-obsessed pseudo-godmother (who is actually based on ME), I borrowed Gloria’s name. I don’t know if Gloria will ever read the book or make the connection, but it’s there because she always brightened my day.

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Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I knew I wanted my book to be very Midwestern, so set my story in Saugatuck, Michigan, which is this wonderful beach town along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Western Michigan. For Chicagoans who want to make a quick escape in the summertime, it’s an easy trip – no hassles of air travel, lots of fruit picking along the way. It’s a wonderful place to shed the big-city woes and just run around barefoot and enjoy the sand and the sun. I feel like with today’s plugged-in generation, kids don’t experience summertime the same way as generations before them. For too many kids, it’s a time to sit around in air-conditioning playing video games. I wanted to create a place where the characters shed all that and key into the beauty of the area – catching the sunsets, discovering hummingbirds, looking up at the stars as they light up a night sky. Old school joys of being out of school.

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

For most of my childhood, my dad INSISTED he was the missing crown prince of Lithuania. The reason for the fake royal blood? My table manners. Every time he spotted my elbows on the table, I’d hear, “When I return to my birthright, you’re not going to be able to attend royal events at the castle with manners like that.” At a certain point, I learned to place my napkin in my lap (confession: I still sometimes sneak a book under it during dinner!) and I realized my father was, well, full of it. But I also knew exactly who to name the King of Somerstein after when it came time to write my book. You’re welcome for the promotion, Dad!

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Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

The “key” in SPIRIT’S KEY was inspired by a handmade ring I’d made from some Alice in Wonderland fabric. The fabric had all these cute little images on it: a key, a mirror, a rabbit, a cake. I’d isolated the key and made a ring with it that was sitting on my dresser when I was contemplating Spirit’s story. I knew already that Spirit’s Dad was a psychic—one who specifically had the ability to see the future. But I didn’t know how. I saw the key ring, and thought: Yes! People’s house keys! That’s how Dad will know their future. And Spirit’s Key was born.

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Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Researching Steering Toward Normal was so much fun because I visited farms, state fairs, interviewed amazing 4-H’ers, and witnessed a ton of moments that I basically reported verbatim. Like the toddler at the Minnesota State Fair who moo’ed his guts out at a steer’s butt for five minutes, just pleased as heck he knew what sound a cow makes and very determined to get this particular animal to make it back to him. The little guy was hoarse by the time his mom led him away. The scene almost didn’t make the cut, but how could I not shoehorn in such cuteness?

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

18769364

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER is filled with true happenings (both good and bad) and inside jokes. But one fun secret: their name didn’t start out as Fletcher. They were the family Furnival, until I got some editorial feedback that “some people” thought “Furnival sounded like “funeral.” I know, I don’t really hear it either. Anyway, off I went on a wild search for a new name! Then my editor said, “well, wasn’t the dog in your aunt’s (author Elizabeth Levy) books named Fletcher? What if you named the family after that dog?” So the family Fletcher was born, and only a few people knew that they were named for a basset hound in my aunt’s books! (If you want to see the original Fletcher dog, check here: http://elizabethlevy.com/booksall/ !)

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

As you may have noticed, Gladys Gatsby shares a last name with a certain other character from literature. Some people assume that this is a reference to “The Great Gatsby,” and it is–but not in the way they think. I’ve never been a fan of that book, so it’s always rankled me that Jay Gatsby is probably the most famous fictional literary character to live on Long Island (where I grew up, and where Gladys lives). So I guess I paid a tiny bit of homage by borrowing the name…but mostly, I just wanted to reclaim and reimagine it. My apologies to Fitzgerald!

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/PenguinBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy

In By the Grace of Todd, Persephone, the spunky Toddlian, is sold as a slave to one of evil Max’s bully buddies. At his house she watches an hombre named John Wayne on TV and so admires his toughness that she becomes a self-styled cowgirl.
Her character is a tribute to my cowboy father, who is my hero and a huge fan of the Duke. I also love the work of Louis L’Amour, and his lingo definitely influenced my writing. Persephone gets a lot more page time in the upcoming In Todd We Trust, as do the rest of the Toddlians. “GERONIMOOOO!!!”

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-HyperionHookCover_frontonly_72

Jocelyn’s pirate crew in HOOK’S REVENGE are so desperate to look experienced that they pretend to have battle wounds. There is One-Armed Jack (who keeps an arm tucked inside his shirt), Jim McCraig with a Wooden Leg (who only has a giant sliver in his toe), Blind Bart (who could see fine if he would remove at least one of his eye patches), and Nubbins. Nubbins lost a thumb in a cooking mishap, but claimed a giant squid bit it off. Since he is the only one with the glory of a real injury, I let him keep his given name. He would have felt less need to embellish. 

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Here’s a quick glance at how I found some of my characters’ names:

Fairfoul WitchFairfoul was a name I stole off a gravestone in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Rupert: When trying to think of a perfect name for the protagonist, Rupert and Rufus were the first things that popped into my head. I went with Rupert because “Rufus” always makes me think of the (awesome) naked mole rat on Kim Possible.

Allison: One of my best friends once complained to me that there were never any nice, decent book characters named Allison. Challenge accepted!

Bruno: My nod to Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES.

Rupert’s mom: Her name–Joanne–is only mentioned once in the whole book, but I named her after my favorite author, J.K. Rowling.

Mrs. Frabbleknacker: OK, this one just came from my brain. Fully formed. And weird.

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_THE NINJA LIBRARIANS is rife with real people, speeches, books, songs, and gadgets, summoned from history to help tell would-be sword-fighter Dorrie Barnes’ story. In it, the time-traveling warrior lybrarians call their headquarters “Petrarch’s Library”. I had never heard the phrase when I came across it scrawled cross-ways, loose, and all by itself on a piece of paper in a spiral notebook during a rare deepish house cleaning. I hadn’t written it, nor had anyone else in the family. The suggestive phrase wouldn’t leave me alone, and conjured the first images for me of a sprawling library connecting ancient and modern times. Petrarch the 14th c. humanist, it tickled me to learn, was a book fiend and restless traveler who often hit the roads leading a short train of donkeys laden with his personal library.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

When Audrey Met Alice final coverI wanted to write about a fictional First Daughter, and I also wanted to write about the very real and awesome Alice Roosevelt. But I didn’t know which story idea to pick, or how to put those two together—at least without time travel.

I was waiting to cross the street at 62nd and Madison when suddenly the concept for not AUDREY or ALICE but WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE popped into my head. A presidential tween could find Alice’s diary and get ideas for running riot in the 21st century! I went home and outlined the whole book.

Later, while researching, I found out that the very intersection where inspiration struck was where young Alice lived with her Auntie Bye. Coincidence?

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Ryan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

There’s a scene in THERE WILL BE BEARS where Tyson threatens his friend Brighton that if he doesn’t confess to liking Taylor Swift, he’ll hack up a wad of snot and spit it into his mouth. Most people would like to believe something this disgusting is entirely fictitious, however, yeah… no. I have five older brothers. I’ve been pinned down by my brother Jacob, a wad of snot dangling from his lips. It fell into my screaming mouth that pleaded for mercy.

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What other behind the scenes info do you want to know about any of our books? Have any questions for particular authors? We’ll answer questions in the comments section!

After that cold winter, please enjoy that hot summer sun! And be sure to return for another segment of Mad For Middle Grade on Monday August 4th.

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!

We have one wonderful June release that you definitely don’t want to miss:

51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

QUINNY & HOPPER
by Adriana Brad Schanen
Release date: June 10
Goodreads

HOORAY, ADRIANA! Congratulations on your lovely, endearing debut!

This month we are getting personal. Stick with us as we share some of our most vivid middle grade memories–ones that shaped us as authors.

Question: How have your middle grade memories affected your writing?

Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

In sixth grade I marched uEdith Cohnp to the most popular girl in school and asked, “Hey can I be popular with you guys?” because I figured being popular was as simple as asking for what you want. She responded with a pitying look, “I’m sorry, but some people don’t like you because you have chicken legs.” Wow. Really? I had no idea skinny legs and knobby knees were what was holding me back in life. In high school I told my friends this story, and chicken legs became a fond nickname. I owned it. Hindsight made it funny. But when it happened, I was mortified, rejected and I came to think of myself as an outsider. For years, I snapped at a lot of people who tried to talk to me—assuming I was the butt of some joke. Maybe sometimes I was, but I think a lot of time I was an outsider of my own making. In SPIRIT’S KEY, Spirit is also in some ways an outsider of her own making. 

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

My parents were lGayle Rosengrenong-divorced by the time  I was ten.  Mom worked full time and we lived on a very tight budget with little money left for the extras I yearned for–piano lessons (not that we had a piano), ballet lessons, ice skates, art supplies.  Library books were my salvation. They were free and promised unlimited adventure.  I opened their covers and became tomboy and future writer, Jo March; Cherry Ames, RN; Susie the ballerina; Tom Sawyer on his island; Trixie Belden, with her best friends (and horses!) and mysteries always at hand to solve. All of their lives were so much more interesting than my own. Readingwas like leaving a black & white world to enter a techni-color one, like when Dorothy lands in Oz.  I decided then that what I wanted more than anything was to be a children’s author because I wanted to make that kind of amazing difference in kids’ lives too. 

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Heidi SchulzWhen I was in sixth grade I went to Skate Palace and couple skated with the wrong boy. He was nice and cute and seemed to like me, but he was wrong because another girl said so. Thus began the Get All the Girls to Hate Heidi Campaign.

It worked. For the rest of the year, the girls in my grade only spoke to me if they had something mean to say. Sometimes weapons were fired in the coatroom, via “anonymous” notes shoved in my pockets.

I still remember one: Dear heidi, Notice I didn’t capitalize your name. Only important words are capitalized.

In Hook’s Revenge, Jocelyn also gets pocket hate mail, though hers does not insult her with a grammar lesson.

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

In fourth grade, my class Robin Herrerawas assigned to write a “sequel” to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. My favorite cartoon had just aired a hilarious episode about that very topic, which included Jack being sued by the Giant for breaking and entering. So I wrote that and turned it in.
A few weeks later I had my parent-teacher conference. My teacher, usually critical of me, told my parents about the story I’d written. So creative and funny!
I squirmed in my seat, ashamed. My teacher finally had something nice to say about me, and it was for something I hadn’t even come up with on my own. I left with slumped shoulders that day, but I vowed never to pass someone else’s work off as my own.
So far, so good!

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Tracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

When I was six, myTracy Holczer parents divorced. My mom grabbed me and Pooh, our teacup Chihuahua, and headed for Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It was summer, and they had a pool, so the shock of what was going on was dulled by sunshiny days, the pain of my peeling nose, and the excitement of watching my poor little dog get chased around by my aunt’s orange tom cat. While there, I happened upon a statue in the donation box that I snatched, and kept under my pillow. It didn’t take long for my six-year-old mind to decide the statue was my guardian angel.

Eventually, I found out the hard way the statue was, in fact, just a statue. She shattered into a million pieces at the feet of one of the meanest girls in my third grade class.

But it was moments like those, shardlike and brilliantly lit, that made me a writer. 

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

In eighth grade, assigned teams in gym class gave me unprecedented access to the rantings of the two queen bees at my middle school. I was well aware that we traveled in different social circles, but I never suspected we were living in different universes, until I heard oneJen Malone complaining to the other about how her boyfriend liked her to do a certain something that I literally did not know existed as a thing. In the span of two minutes of overheard conversation, my whole world tilted on its axel and I was left dumbfounded. What was most shocking to me was my complete and total ignorance before that moment. Was I the only one who didn’t know about this stuff? What other stuff was I oblivious to that everyone else not only knew about but, even worse, was already DOING? Would be expected to do these things? The answer was “not anytime soon”, but in that moment, it sure knocked me on my butt. It would be logical to assume this made me want to write edgier middle grade so no other poor soul is caught unawares, but it has actually had the opposite effect. I write sweet and light MG because adult me wants to give young, naive me hugs and tell her to stay that way as long as possible. The rest of that stuff is out there waiting when she’s ready for it.  

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Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Some of my best childhood meAdriana Schanenmories were of spending time at my friend Kirsten’s summer cottage, in rural Southern Wisconsin. Our families were neighbors in a near-downtown part of Chicago, and we all grew close. She and I were busy with school and sports/activities most of the year, but at the lakeside cottage we did nothing much except read moldy old Nancy Drew books, perform shows on the rickety pier and wander the shoreline. These were the memories I went back to when writing my early MG novel, QUINNY & HOPPER: the contrast between city bustle and rural quiet, the breathlessness of a packed schedule versus the balm of a leisurely day all to yourself.

I changed schools a lot when I was young, and the anxieties and uncertainties of that informed my writing of this book, too — but it’s those simple, sweet cottage-day memories that made me want to write about a great summer friendship in the first place.

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

I was feeling veLouise Galvetsonry pleased with myself as I sashayed into the Jr High Halloween dance. I was all dolled up in a vintage black 60s dress, stilettos, pillbox hat with a net (my favorite part), and a diamond-studded cigarette holder (minus the cig, of course). I’d done my make-up a la Marilyn and felt my power as boy after boy wanted to slow dance with me. A big, good-looking farm boy (who’d never given me the time of day before) leaned in close to my hair and pulled back. “Yup,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Your hair does smell like BLEEP!” I was utterly humiliated. Curse you, Aquanet!

There is an extremely awkward Halloween dance in the sequel to BY THE GRACE OF TODD-IN TODD WE TRUST. Only Todd’s partner’s hair smells exotically of coconuts. 🙂

This picture is taken in the very cafeteria of the dance of shame. I think the hand-hold was a dare.

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

It’s in those middle years that one’s native cheery sense of the possible, and the obviously self-evident suffers its most sJen Downeycraping of challenges! The summer after 5th grade, I went off to camp. One with wooden mouse-
chewed cabins, a beautifully unsupervised archery range, a lake, and a supply of boys, a species newly of interest. I had gone with a friend. We had decided ahead of time to ditch our real names and enjoy two weeks of summer paradise as “Katie” in my friend’s case, and as “Sandy” in mine. Quickly, we fell in love with a pair of twins from Long Island who wore matching stars and stripes bathing suits. Meaningful glances were exchanged. Clearly a note needed to be written. Arrangements codified. Cross-legged, on the eau-de-urine mattress, I licked my pencil tip.  “Dear Ricky and Larry,” I composed, following with a business-like laying out of facts about the attraction “Katie” and “Sandy”  felt in equal, though non-discriminatory parts. I closed with a question: “Which one of you, likes which one of us.” At that evening’s lakeside 4th of July gathering, the note was passed up to the blanket on which our beloveds sat. In the expectant hush that presaged the release of the first round of fireworks, the twins’ answer came back in slow deafening unison: “We both like Katie!” No malice. Just the facts. And a vast audience for my stunned burning-faced recognition of logic’s betrayal.

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Do you have any significant middle grade memories? Come share your highs and lows with us in the comments!

We’ll be back on Monday July 7th for some more middle grade fun! Stay tuned!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Writing Quotes

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, 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!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and four fantastic middle grade books are headed your way in May:

Hum

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
by Tracy Holczer

Release date: May 1
Goodreads

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CUPCAKE COUSINS
by Kate Hannigan

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

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STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
by Rebecca Petruck

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

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SLEEPOVERS, SOLOS, AND SHEET MUSIC (I HEART BAND #3)
by Michelle Schusterman

Release date: May 15
Goodreads

Congratulations to Tracy, Kate, Rebecca, and Michelle! Their books are fantabulous, so definitely seek them out!!!

And now, for this week’s topic:

Question: What is your favorite quote about writing and why?

Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.

―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

For me, this applies to those messy, ugly, unruly first drafts. It’s not about producing something tidy and perfect. It’s about getting the thoughts out, the brain dump. There will be time later for shaping and polishing. But if we’re shooting for perfection, we’re snuffing out that spark of creativity.

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

Delacorte/Random House

18769364My older brother […] was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. […] he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

–Anne Lamott Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I’ve now written five novels (though some will never see daylight), so I know, empirically, that I can crank out 80,000 words on a regular basis. But still, every time I face a blank page, or a massive revision, I remember this quote. Just take it bird by bird.

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Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar


Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.
–Cheryl Strayed (from TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS)
My sister framed this for me and it sits on my desk, right next to a picture of our coal-mining grandfather. It keeps my butt in the chair.

 

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

ATYOURSERVICEBe vulnerable.

–Chinese fortune cookie 

I do have other quotes I love by real actual people (although, as evidenced in Lauren Magaziner’s THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES, someone quite real writes all those fortune cookie slips) but this phrase has become my motto for 2014. It applies to my writing, for sure, and reminds me to not hold back in what I write and which parts of my writing I share with others (those extra messy first drafts, for one), but it also applies a lot to this debut year where I’m putting myself out there in new ways: asking strangers to read, review, talk about, blog about, and (hopefully) buy my book. That doesn’t always feel natural to me, but I’m learning to embrace the discomfort and grow from it. Someone else (okay, fine, I think it was Oprah. Fortune cookies and Oprah–I’m so very cliche!) once said “If you aren’t at least a little bit uncomfortable, you aren’t doing life right.”

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHESTheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942
Dial/Penguin

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

–Ernest Hemingway

I live by this quote. Sometimes it’s tempting to get lost in pretty sentences that look and sound beautiful. But resist the temptation; instead, write to build something.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Follow your bliss.

–Joseph Campbell

I’m at my happiest when I’m creating. So I try to create something every day, for everyone’s sake.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

WhenAudreyA writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve scribbled down many other, more practical writing quotes–tips on being brave when facing a blank page, or on how to tidy up a messy draft, or mnemonic devices on lay versus lie. But this writing quote helps me see the big picture; it reminds me how important and powerful words are, and that storytelling, while often a fun and delightful way to spend one’s time, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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Edith Cohn
20518878SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I write it in a book for children. Children still haven’t closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution, or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth.

–Madeleine L’Engle

This quote inspires me to dream big and think outside the box with my writing.

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

MoonSaidThe difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

–Mark Twain

On first reading this may seem more humorous than inspirational, but like most “simple” adages, it embodies true wisdom, which in this case comes from one of our country’s most esteemed, beloved and prolific writers.

Sometimes we get so caught up in writing a story that we forget to take notice of each word we choose to tell it with.  But no matter how compelling the storyline, what takes it from the realm of a good story to a powerful one rests in the tiny building blocks we use to shape it–the words.  Thoughtful, patient selections of just the right word make all the difference.  So on that final draft, no matter how anxious we are to ship it off to agent or editor and collapse in an exhausted heap, we must try to hold back, proceed slowly, linger thoughtfully over each word, and ask ourselves if another one might say it just a little better. 

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Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hop-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire.
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

–“Invitation” by Shel Silverstein

Nothing gets my all-over-the-place brain in the writing way like a hit of Shel Silverstein. This classic opener to “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a lifelong favorite, an invitation to leave the literal world behind and cross over into the sublime.

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGEHookCover_frontonly_72
Disney-Hyperion

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

—Stephen King

I write for the same reason I read: I love stories. So if you see me curled up in my favorite chair, book in hand, please don’t disturb me. I’m working. 

 

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

–Toni Morrison

The biggest missteps I’ve taken as a writer have been in trying to write what I “should” instead of the kind of book that, as a reader, I would most enjoy. And given that the publishing process requires you to read and reread your book until you’re blue in the face, it may as well be a story that’s right up your alley! 🙂

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Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

SteeringTowardNormal_FinalWhat we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

–“Little Gidding” by T.S. Eliot

These words have been with me for twenty years. (Even painted on a wall!) They comfort me with the interconnectedness of things. Stories were how I felt part of the world, inspiring me to reallysee it and want to see more. When I write, I imagine my stories as introductions to the world for other readers, too, and encouragement to go beyond their everyday and explore.

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UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Using this line as a mantra is the only reason I got a word, a sentence, a chapter, let alone a book written. And you know what? The book still isn’t perfect. But it’s published.

 

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

I…I….I don’t HAVE a fav51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_orite quote about writing! Not one that I’ve hung on a wall, or know by heart, or have tattooed on my forearm for easy reference. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate such quotes, and I know I’ve come across many great ones voiceover-ed in documentaries, typed in light italics at the start of book chapters, and scrawled across the top of chalkboards. I’ve just never felt so strongly about one writing quote that it became my guiding light. Well, truth to tell, some did affect me strongly, but I was too lazy to write them down. Okay, okay, don’t look at me that way! Yes, I confess that I DID possibly manage to copy one or two down on scraps of paper but then lost them before I could hook the sentiments into a suitable rug design. And now I’ve got bupkus. I actually considered googling “writing quotes”, picking one, and claiming it as mine own special one. THAT’S the sad bus station at which my life of quotelessness has left me. So let that be a lesson to you. I’m not sure which one exactly it is…but have at it!

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What are your favorite writing quotes? Let us know what speaks to you–we are ready to be inspired by quotes we haven’t heard before! And remember, if there is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month, feel free to let us know in the comments!

Enjoy those May flowers! We’ll be back on June 2nd!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way 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 becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.