Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guest Post From Dee Romito + Giveaway!

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Dee Romito! Ms. Romito is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including the upcoming Postcards from Venice, which releases May 29th. Here's the guest post! And be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post, because Ms. Romito is giving away one of her books!

When I first started writing middle grade stories, I was also reading a lot of middle grade books. Because if there’s one thing writers hear over and over again, it’s to read within your category and genre. That’s how you see what’s out there and learn how it’s done. For me, that meant middle grade contemporary—maybe with a little bit of magic.

One of my favorite books during that time was Seeing Cinderella, by Jenny Lundquist. It’s about a girl who gets a pair of glasses with magic powers and can read people’s thoughts. Cool, right? That was the kind of book I wanted to write, and someday, I wanted to have one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. She even sent me an advanced copy of her next book with an encouraging note. I still have that note. (Thank you, Jenny!)

As I moved along on my publishing journey, I met a writer in the slush pile of a contest and we became critique partners and friends. Not too long after, she got her first book deal. At Your Service, by Jen Malone is about Chloe, who lives in a fancy hotel in New York City, and is appointed the official junior concierge. She’s in charge of whatever the kid-guests might need. And she’s doing great, until she loses a princess! That was the kind of book I wanted to write, and someday, I wanted to have one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. (Can you guess where this is going?)

Well as it turns out, I did get one of those adorable Aladdin Mix covers. My first book, The BFF Bucket List, came out in 2016 from Simon & Schuster. And that cover had my name on it. In a fitting, full-circle twist, my editor was the same one who had worked on Seeing Cinderella.

So for those of you on that publishing rollercoaster, keep writing, reading, and pushing toward that goal. And for the readers out there, we’re doing our best to write books you’ll love. Thank you for all of your support!

(Psst … Postcards from Venice, the companion/sequel to The BFF Bucket List comes out May 29!)

Love this! The Aladdin Mix books are always fun! And thank you to Ms. Romito for participating in this event! :)

Author bioDee Romito is an author and former elementary school teacher. Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, Postcards from Venice, and co-authored Best.Night.Ever (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) releases in November 2018. She blogs about writing at and is Co-Advisor of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. While she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. You can visit her website at

Here are a few links:

Now the giveaway! :)

Information and Rules:
Giveaway runs between May 26th through June 3rd.
Enter using the rafflecopter below.
There will be one winner! 
Afterward I will contact the winner to get the information for the author, the winner will have 48 hours to reply.
If the winner does not reply within 48 hours, I will draw a new winner.
The author is the one responisible to get the prize to the winner.
US and Canada only

No cheating! 

And good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 25, 2018

Guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight!

Today in Yay For Middle Grade Books!, I'm happy to present a guest post from Wendy McLeod MacKnight! She is the author of It's a Mystery, Pig Face!, and the upcoming The Frame-Up, which releases June 5th. Now here's the guest post!

Everything I Learned About Humor I Learned from a Middle Grade Book

Is there anything better than a book that makes us chuckle, or even better, experience a laugh-out-loud belly laugh?

And sure, picture books can be hysterical (one only has to read BJ Novak’s The Book with No Pictures to get that), but my money is on the middle grade novel, where authors take us on wild rides that leave us laughing so hard we’re crying.

One of the first middle grade novels I ever read was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Every page was filled with witty and sarcastic asides, as well as slapstick comedy. As a reader, I felt very grownup to be in on Mr. Dahl’s secret that children’s books could be so funny.

“Whips!” cried Veruca Salt. “What on earth do you use whips for?” “For whipping cream, of course,” said Mr. Wonka. “How can you whip cream without whips? Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all unless it’s been whipped with whips. Just as a poached egg isn’t a poached egg unless it’s been stolen from the woods in the dead of night! Row on, please!”
And then of course I discovered Pippi Longstocking, the world’s strongest girl and freest spirit!

“As the children were sitting there eating pears, a girl came walking along the road from town. When she saw the children she stopped and asked, ‘Have you seen my papa go by?’

‘M-m-m,’ said Pippi. ‘How did he look? Did he have blue eyes?’

‘Yes,’ said the girl.

‘Medium large, not too tall and not too short?’

‘Yes,’ said the girl.

‘Black hat and black shoes?’

‘Yes, exactly,’ said the girl eagerly.

‘No, that one we haven’t seen,’ said Pippi decidedly.

For a while — a very short while — I grew up and didn’t read many middle grade novels. But I missed them dreadfully, because humorous adult novels have a tendency to be too clever for their own good.

Enter Captain Underpants, who my son adored:

I adored Captain Underpants, too, for lines like the following…

“George and Harold were usually responsible kids. Whenever anything bad happened, George and Harold were usually responsible.”

From Captain Underpants, he moved on to a Series of Unfortunate Events, Holes, and everything by Kate DiCamillo.

It was a reminder to me of how important it is to not only watch funny movies and TV shows, but read funny books as well, and since then, I’ve never shirked my duty to look for funny middle grade novels.

Nowadays when I do school visits, I always make sure to talk to kids about funny books.

Not only did the funny books I read as a kid help sharpen my funny bone, they were often the perfect tonic for stressful times, life changes, and the confusion I often felt while growing up.

And I bring along copies of recent books (and sometimes I leave a few for their library!) that I think they will fall in love with, including these recent faves:

These books are guaranteed belly-laughers, and thanks to the wonderfully twisted minds of their authors, are helping create the next generation of smart, funny, kids!!
Just as “issues” books are critical for our kids, so are escapist romps.

Frankly, we could all use more laughs in our lives, and middle grade novels are the perfect place to start!

I haven't read all these books, I really need to try them! And thank you to Ms. MacKnight for participating in this event!

Author bio: Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She wrote her first novel at age nine. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press in 2017. Her second book, The Frame-Up, a fantasy that asks “What if every original piece of art is actually alive?” sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published June 5th, 2018.

Here are a few links:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Guest Post From Jen Calonita!

Today on the blog I have a guest post from Jen Calonita! Ms. Calonita is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including her upcoming book, Misfits, which releases October 2nd. Here's her guest post!

Long May They Reign

As I sit here sipping from my commemorative Prince Harry and Meghan Markle coffee mug that my husband brought me from London on a recent trip, I can’t help but be giddy about a wedding that will have already happened by the time this post goes live.

I’ve read all the magazine articles a person can read on Meghan and still, I find myself pining for more. I will be watching the Lifetime movie special about their courtship and will most likely set my alarm for 5 AM EST to watch the wedding live here in the States. I have my commemorative mug, my favorite plastic tiara, and my Harry and Meghan tote bag (yeah, he got me one of those too. Plus, a tea towel! I’m so happy!) all ready for the celebration.

What is it about this wedding that has me and so much of the world excited? Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I love the idea of a new era of royals dawning. Not only is Meghan a commoner, and an American to boot, but she’s a divorcĂ©e—all things once considered taboo for a royal bride. I’ve watched in wonder as she and Harry have rewritten the code for what it means to be a royal couple. They haven’t shied away from public displays of affection or from choosing charity work that is personally meaningful to them both. Basically, I’m fascinated, partly because they’re setting the groundwork for my own group of royals that readers will meet this October when Royal Academy Rebels’ MISFITS makes its debut.

My protagonist, Devin, is what you’d call a reluctant royal trapped at a school where royal traditions reign. At Royal Academy (a sister school to Fairy Tale Reform School), Devin and her roommates Sasha (Sleeping Beauty’s younger sister) and Raina (a sibling of Snow White’s) learn princesses haven’t changed that much over the years. Princesses are taught how to survive sleeping curses and handle being trapped by villains with grace and humility. They learn how to wait in towers to be rescued and are taught never to attempt to rescue themselves. Devin, wants none of that. Neither do some of her new friends, including world explorer Prince Heathcliff (another sibling of Snow White’s) or Logan, a boy allergic to dragons but a whiz in the kitchen. These young royals are ready to rock the system and I think both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would approve.

--Jen Calonita, author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series (SWITCHED, is out now) and the upcoming Royal Academy Rebels from Sourcebooks

The royal wedding was fun to watch! And Misfits sounds really good! Thank you to Ms. Calonita for participating in this event! :)

Author bioJen Calonita is the author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series and the upcoming companion series, Royal Academy Rebels. The first book, MISFITS, will be out October second. When she isn't hanging out with her family or her two feisty chihuahuas--Captain Jack Sparrow and Ben Kenobi--you'll find her daydreaming about a life spent living in Cinderella's castle in Walt Disney World.

Here are a few links:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Guest Post From Anna Staniszewski

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Anna Staniszewski! Ms. Staniszewski is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including Once Upon a Cruise. Here's her guest post!

How NOT to Write Middle Grade Voice

Many moons ago, when I first started writing novels, I thought I was writing for adults. But over and over, people would tell me, “Your characters sound too young. They sound thirteen.” Eventually I smartened up and realized that I was supposed to be writing books for middle grade readers, and I haven’t looked back since!

I’m lucky that I have a natural middle grade voice, but voice is probably the hardest thing about writing for young readers—and even I don’t always get it right. A lot of writers think they have a “kid voice” but it actually sounds like an adult trying to sound like a kid. How do you avoid this pitfall? Here are some tips for the aspiring MG writers out there.

-Find the emotion.

Think back to when you were the age of your main character and remember what mattered to you: what felt exciting or terrifying or devastating. Then infuse that emotion into your character’s story, so that their thoughts and reactions will feel genuine and real.

-Avoiding stereotypes.

If you’re going off of what you’ve seen on TV, chances are you’ll get it wrong. There is no such thing as a typical 10 or 12 year old, and there’s no such thing as a typical MG protagonist. Instead, dig into your character to find out how they think and act and express themselves. If they’re angry, do they cry or do they scream or do they neurotically alphabetize? Creating unique, quirky humans (rather than “typical” kids or tweens) will make your characters feel layered and engaging.

-Find your character’s language.

If you’ve developed a unique character with authentic emotions, that will go a long way in making sure the character acts and talks in a believable way. But what language patterns or oddities do they have? Are they always making up weird words? Do they spout scientific facts when they’re nervous? Those types of details are way better than having your character rolling their eyes and saying “Whatever!” all the time!

-Don’t make character too articulate.

Remember that young people often have more emotions than words, so they’re not always able to articulate how they’re feeling. That’s why showing thoughts and emotions through action and gesture is so useful, especially in times of high emotion. We generally don’t expect people of any age to say exactly what they’re thinking, and it feels especially fishy if we hear characters in MG saying something like, “I was upset when you did that because it made me feel bad about myself.” It’s much more likely that a character will say, “You’re the worst!”

-Get the adults out of the picture.

This is a clichĂ© in children’s books—kill off the parents!—but it exists for a reason. Parents often get in the way of a kid going on adventures and trying new things, but when it comes to voice, having too many adults in the story can also get in the way of your character speaking up. It can be interesting to show how your character acts/talks around adults vs. around peers or siblings, but if you have too many “helpful adults” trying to tell your character what to do or trying to speak for your character, then it takes your character’s voice away and makes the story less interesting. So if your story is crowded with adults, even if they mean well, at some point, they need to fade away so that your character can live their own story and make their own mistakes.

All really great advice! Thank you to Ms. Staniszewski for participating in this event! :)

Author bioAnna Staniszewski is the author of several tween novels, including The Dirt Diary and Once Upon a Cruise, as well as the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex. She was a former Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and currently teaches at Simmons College in Boston. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, eating too much chocolate, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. Visit her at

Here are a few links:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Interview With Gail Nall!

Today on the blog I'm happy to present an interview with Gail Nall! Ms. Nall is the author of multiple Middle Grade books, including Out of Tune.

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

1. Would you please tell us a little about Out of Tune?
Sure! Out of Tune is basically music, Yellowstone, and finding home. Maya, the main character, is an aspiring country singer from Nashville. She has big plans to audition for a reality singing show when her family sells everything they own to move into a trailer and travel the country. Maya's determined not to let that stop her dreams, so she hatches a plan -- which might involve a 100-mile bike ride through Yellowstone -- to get back home in time for auditions.

Love this book! :)

2. Maya, the main character of Out of Tune, loves country music and wants to be a country singer. Maya lists Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert as her favorites. Who is your favorite country singer?
Ooh, good question! I love those ladies. Miranda Lambert can sing a break-up song better than just about anyone. I also have a soft spot for Dolly Parton (seriously, is there anything better than "Jolene"?). I also love guys like Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, and my all-time favorite, Jason Isbell. Mostly, I just love a country song that tells a story and maybe makes me cry. 

I don't think I've ever heard Jason Isbell's music before! I need to listen to it! :)

3. Random question! Do you listen to music while you write?
I don't! Not usually, anyway, because it distracts me. But a lot of times, I'll make a playlist for the book I'm working on and listen to it when I'm driving or out walking. If I listen to it enough, the music gets me in the mood of the story and fades into the background so I can work through plot problems or brainstorm ideas for characters.

4. If you're able to talk about it, what are you currently working on?
Right now, I'm working on a new middle grade novel that I can't say much about yet. I've got the story plotted, and I've just started writing the first draft. It's very different from my other books, and I'm having a lot of fun writing it! I also have the first draft of a YA novel that I need to go back and start revising.

5. What are some of your favorite MG books you've read? And what are some that you're looking forward to reading?
Lately, I've really enjoyed Eric Bell's ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD and Amy Dixon's upcoming ANNIE B., MADE FOR TV. I'm most looking forward to reading Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone's THE ART OF THE SWAP and Sayantani Dasgupta's THE SERPENT'S SECRET -- both are out, and I just haven't had the time to read them yet.

I really liked The Art of the Swap! :)

Thank you to Ms. Nall for participating in this event! :)

Author bio: Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the Aladdin/S&S middle grade novels OUT OF TUNE, BREAKING THE ICE, the YOU'RE INVITED series (co-authored with Jen Malone), and BEST.NIGHT.EVER. (co-authored). She is also the author of the young adult novel, EXIT STAGE LEFT (Epic Reads Impulse/HarperCollins). You can find her online at and on Twitter as @gailecn.

Here are a few links: