Thursday, May 25, 2017

Yay For Middle Grade Books! 2017 Wrap Up Post

The 2nd annual Yay For Middle Grade Books! is now done! I had so much fun working on this event, and got such a great response from people about it again. Thank you so much to all the authors who participated in the event! And thank you to everyone who tweeted and posted about it, commented on posts, and in any way supported it! You all are awesome! :)

Now here's the wrap up!

The first day of the event was a guest post from Jess Keating, about her favorite books for fans of animals!

The next day was an interview with Nancy J. Cavanaugh!

Then a guest post from Carter Higgins about what books her main character would read!

The next day, a interview with Gail Nall!

A guest post from Patricia Bailey about what books inspired her while writing her debut book was the next day!

Then an interview with S.A. Larsen!

The following day, a guest post from Anna Staniszewski about five funny MG books everyone should read!

The next day an interview and giveaway (This giveaway is still happening, go enter!) from Susan Maupin Schmid!

Then an interview with Stephanie Burgis!

The following day, a guest post from Janet Sumner Johnson, about MG books that have made her laugh out loud!

Then an interview with Mike Maihack!

The next day, an interview with Jen Malone!

Then a guest post from Mary E. Lambert, about how reading makes us become better people!

The following day, a guest post from Stephanie Faris about understanding MG books!

Then a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight about how a good MG novel carries you through life!

The following day, an interview with Allison Gutknecht!

The final day of the event was an interview with Beth Fantaskey!

There were so many amazing guest posts and awesome answers to questions! Thank you again so much to everyone who participated in this event! You all are great! :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Beth Fantaskey

Today I'm pleased to present an interview with Beth Fantaskey! Ms. Fantaskey is the author of the MG book Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter. She is also the author of multiple YA books.

The bold writing is the questions I asked, the regular writing is her responses, and the bold italic writing are my comments about her answers.

1. Would you please describe your book, Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter, in seven words? 
Spunky newsgirl fights to save friend’s life.

2. The book takes place in 1920s Chicago. Are there any other times in history that you would like to set a MG book in? 
I’d like to go back slightly farther in time and write a book set at the turn of the century. I can’t reveal the location, though, because I don’t think there’s a middle-grade book that takes place in this setting. I want first crack at writing the story!  

3. Random question! If you could go back in time for one day, what place in time would you like to visit? 
Okay, I’m going to set some parameters, because, like everyone, I’ve lost people I’d give anything to see one more time, even just going back a few months. So I’m going to self-impose a rule that says I’d have to go back at least 100 years. And I’m going to pick Egypt, during the time of the great dynasties and the construction of the pyramids. Just plop me down there on any given day. I can’t imagine anything that would be more different from my existence right now. I’m sure I’d see things that even archaeologists have never dreamed up. Maybe I’d come back and say, “Sorry, you’ve got it all wrong!”

That would be neat! :)

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you working on now? 
I’m writing a series of “cozy” mysteries for adults. The first book, Death by Chocolate Lab, just came out a few weeks ago. And there are at least two more in the series. But I haven’t given up on YA and middle grade books. I definitely have middle grade projects in mind. And I’m toying with the idea of writing a third book about my royal vampire couple, Jess and Lucius, from Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. I’ve been floating ideas on Facebook, and readers seem really receptive.  

5. What are some of your favorite Middle Grade Books? 
At the risk of seeming unoriginal, I have to say that my two favorite series are the immensely popular Lemony Snicket and Wimpy Kid books. Not only do I just love the stories, but I have great memories of sharing them with my girls when they were younger.

I actually have the first Wimpy Kid book on my TBR pile right now! :)

Thank you so much to Ms. Fantaskey for participating in this event! :)

Here are few links:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Interview With Allison Gutknecht

Today on the blog I'm pleased to present an interview with Allison Gutknecht! Ms. Gutknecht is the author of multiple MG books, including Spring Break Mistake, and the upcoming Sing Like Nobody's Listening.

Here we go!

The bold writing is the questions I asked, the regular writing is her responses, and the bold italic writing are my comments about her answers.

1. Would you please describe your book, Spring Break Mistake, in seven words?
Snapshot of Friendship in an NYC Frame

2. The book takes place in NYC. If someone were to visit NYC for the first time, where are three places you think they should definitely make time to go to?
I've lived in New York for almost a dozen years, yet I've still never been to many of the major tourist hubs, including the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty! It's for this reason that I wanted many of the landmarks featured in Spring Break Mistake to be a bit off the beaten path, though the girls do still venture to plenty of places found in NYC guidebooks. Of their destinations, my favorites are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hudson River Walk, and the Central Park carousel. And though Times Square drives me batty, it's worth plowing through the chaos if it means getting to a Broadway show!

I would love to visit those places! :)

3. Random question! If you could travel to anyplace in the world, where would you most want to visit at the moment?

Like Avalon in Spring Break Mistake, I'm not a huge fan of leaving home for long stretches of time, so I much prefer weekend getaways. I still haven't been to Savannah, New Orleans, or anywhere in Texas, so those are currently three priority destinations for a long weekend.

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you working on now?
My next MG novel, Sing Like Nobody's Listening (Because Nobody Is) comes out in December. It revolves around the creation of a middle school a cappella group, where voices blend together and fracture apart as the characters' loyalties are formed and then broken.

This sounds so good! :)

5. What are some of your favorite Middle Grade Books?
For me, nothing will ever replace The Baby-Sitters Club. They were my favorite stories throughout my middle grade years, and they remain so to this day. Plus, I adopted my cat, Folly, from Ann M. Martin, who was fostering her litter, and I swear Folly knows how to read based on where she spent the first nine weeks of her life!

The love The Baby-Sitters Club books! :)

And thank you to Ms. Gutknecht for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Allison Gutknecht is the author of six books for young readers. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she earned her master’s degree in Children’s Media and Literature from NYU. Allison grew up in Voorhees, NJ, and now lives in New York City.

Here are a few links:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Guest Post From Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Today on the blog I'm happy to present a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight! Ms. MacKnight is the author of It's a Mystery, Pig Face!, and another MG novel to release in 2018.

Here we go!

A Friend Along the Way:
How a Good Middle Grade Novel Carries You Through Your Whole Life

My to-be-read pile is teetering, threatening to topple at any second. I have deadlines looming, books to revise, a website to update, tax bills to pay.

When life gets overwhelming, I know it is time to turn to my friends, those books that never fail to raise me up and inspire me to keep going.

And those books are almost exclusively middle grade novels.

Do not mistake this for pure sentimentality, though I confess I am prone to nostalgia!

No. What I have learned, from walking around this planet for a long time, is that a well written book discovered in childhood reveals new and nuanced aspects of itself as its reader ages.

For example, when I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time at age nine, I was really only interested in Anne’s shenanigans. In my teens, I became (ahem) a little obsessed with Gilbert. In my twenties, I began to think about Anne’s early childhood and the forces that shaped her. At my last reading, I was most touched by the idea of the aging spinster Marilla, who learns to love later in life, opening her heart to someone who needs her.

Rereading A Wrinkle in Time, I am struck now by the loneliness of Mrs. Murry, who struggles to keep the home (and scientific) fires burning while her husband is somewhere unknowable. Her role is small in the book, but her belief in the unbelievable plants seeds that help Meg along the way.

Likewise, I reread Maud Hart Lovlace’s Heavens to Betsy this week. This time I was struck by the affection the author has for her frivolous teen-aged self, and what wonderful role models Mr. and Mrs. Ray are for their children. I see the strong feminist undertones that I completely missed as a child.

There is a comfort in these books; they are old friends that may remind you of happier times. Just as often, they remind of unhappy times, when the only salve was to escape into a book for a few hours.

There is a joy in reading them to my children, and hopefully, someday, to grandchildren.

They are my companions when I am forced to spend long hours at someone’s side in the hospital; when I am waiting for test results, when I need to feel loving and loved.

I wonder what it will be like to reread them again as an old lady, these books. As I read the current crop of wonderful middle grade novels, I can imagine how many children will return again and again to Brown Girl Dreaming or The Penderwicks or Raymie Nightingale. How many books will be placed in boxes and taken from one house to another, decade after decade, the dowry of a childhood filled with wonderful books?

These books are crown jewels, more precious than diamonds, for in every rereading, you run into the multiple versions of yourself that read it before.

They are time machines and wherever you are, however old you get, they are guaranteed to take you home.

Now as a middle grade author, I am struck by the reality that someday, one of my books might become “that” kind of book for a reader. Really, is there any finer kind of tribute a writer could have?

Love this so much! And thank you so much to Ms. MacKnight for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Wendy grew up in St. Stephen and wrote her first novel at age nine, Pam’s Summer, about a girl who lived above a laundromat in New York City. She’d never been to New York City or stepped inside a laundromat. Still, she continued to write all through her teens, mostly bad poetry about boys who broke her heart. For the next twenty-five years, she worked for the Government of New Brunswick, ending her career as the Deputy Minister of Education when the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. Wendy is represented by Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency in New York City. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press on February 7th, 2017. Her second book, a fantasy set at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, was sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published in 2018. 

Here are a few links:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Yay For Middle Grade Books! Guest Post From Stephanie Faris

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Stephanie Faris! Ms. Faris is the author of the MG books 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Best. Night. Ever. (Written with six other authors!), which releases August 25th.

Here we go!

Understanding Middle Grade
by Stephanie Faris

The first two books I ever sold were in the middle grade genre. Prior to that, I’d only written fiction about adults, but the tween age group was the perfect fit for my voice, I felt. Even when I wrote adult fiction, I preferred lighthearted comedies over dark thrillers or mysteries.

In 2015, I attempted my first chapter book after reading a stack of Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House novels. As I immersed myself in the world of a seven-year-old, I gained an all new perspective on the 13-year-old characters I create in my middle grade books. Here are a few essential differences I’ve noticed.

Tweens Are in Limbo

There’s something frustrating about being a preteen. You’re not quite at the “dating” stage, but you’re not satisfied with lollipops and Santa Claus, either. I’ve found in middle grade, it’s mostly about friends. Characters may have crushes, but the biggest conflicts in their lives relate to the various dramas they experience among their same-sex peers. In chapter books, friendship dramas are less sophisticated. A girl’s best friend may get mad at her over a silly thing, but it won’t seem as earth-shattering as it feels in a middle grade book.

Parents Are Secondary Characters

Parents also play a limbo-style role in MG. They’re often very present in chapter books and not present at all in YA. In MG, they come and go, usually taking a backburner to the characters’ peers. In more literary or darker MG, they may play a much bigger role, though, sometimes even serving as the source of the main character’s conflict.

Worlds Are Bigger

Compared to YA and adult fiction, MG characters lead fairly sheltered lives. They can’t drive yet, so their world is limited to their home, school, and friends’ houses. If they want to hang out with friends, a parent probably has to drive them unless they’re in a small enough town to ride a bike. For chapter book characters, that world shrinks even farther.

There are many different age groups in children’s fiction, each very unique. Sometimes reading books for other age groups can give us an appreciation for what we’re writing. In the end, though, we’re all very lucky to be able to writing books that connect with kids, whatever age they are!

Awesome post! And thank you so much to Ms. Faris for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing. When she isn’t crafting fiction, Stephanie is indulging her gadget geek side by writing for online technology sites. Her work is regularly featured on a wide variety of blogs and websites, both under her own name and as a ghostwriter. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Neil.

Here are a few links: