Monday, May 30, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Ogre of Oglefort

For those of you that are working today and not cleaning their garage (like me), here is my pick for MMGM:

The Ogre of Oglefort by Eva Ibbotson
Release date: August 2011 ( I won the ARC from Shannon Whitney Messenger--love that girl.)

Other books by this author:
Secret of Platform 13
Island of the Aunts
Which Witch?
Journey to the River Sea
The Dragonfly Pool
The Great Ghost Rescue

The Hook: When a princess has gone missing and an ogre is to blame, it's up to a hag, a troll, a wizard and an orphan to save her.

Why I really enjoyed this book: Flipping stereotypes and a bit with a dog. The story almost immediately flips when there's a princess who would rather collect bugs and be turned into a bird instead of marrying a prince. There's also a hospitable hag, a helpful ogre, a poor prince, and a wizard chef. I kept asking myself what's going to happen next because everything I predicted was completely off and I was pleasantly surprised with each chapter. This book is definitely for younger middle graders (I dropped it on my 9-yr-old's TBR pile but even my 7-yr-old could read this). Kids who love Roald Dahl will love this story. Great for both boys and girls.

Want More: Eva Ibbotson died last October at the age of 85. Read her son's interview about her legacy or read her interview at Indiebound.

Other MMGMers:

I'm in a scary book phase, although this wasn't even sorta scary. Do you read in genre clumps? If so, what genre are you addicted to right now?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Best of the Middle Grade Blogs: May 27

I wish I could say I was at BEA this week, but I wasn't. I've been MIA because my laptop went in for a checkup (something came loose inside, never good). So I'm rounding up from my kids' PC computer. After being on a Mac for so long, this is an act of love that I'm even spending time on this computer. If I hit the ALT button one more time, I just might lose it.

Are you a MAC or a PC?

Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

My Fave Middle Grade Blog Posts this Week

Industry & Inspiration




Other Round Ups:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best of the Middle Grade Blogs: May 20

I hate waiting. I'm not good at hurry up and wait. Thankfully, I have your blogs to distract me. What I wish I was listening to kick start Friday:

What I'm actually listening to. Don't judge me. You know it's a sweet Friday song. Don't fight it.

What song gets you in the mood for Friday?

My Fave Middle Grade Blog Posts for This Week

Industry, Inspiration, and Market




Other Round Ups
Still want more writing links? Go read my other white meat round up at The Writing Bug.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

She's Crafty: Creating Tension

Yeah, I'm a little tense. My query is out there, waiting in an inbox. Has it been noticed? It is a brutal question I cannot answer. So to distract my mind and let my manuscript grow cold, I thought of a new idea for a book. I confess I don't have a plot. For a plot girl, that's saying a lot.
I just have an idea and a scene full of tension, now I need to find the before and after.

So what are the 5 T's of Tension: The Stakes, The Pace, The Dialogue, The Setting, The Stakes.

My Top 10 Fave Blog Posts on Creating Tension
  1. Supertaunt Tension and Sizzling Stakes @ Kidlit.
  2. Setting Up the Tension @ The Other Side of the Story.
  3. The Scene Conflict Worksheet: Developing Tension in Your Novel @ Adventures in Children's Publishing.
  4. Whoa, That's Tense. Raising the Tension in Your Scenes @ The Other Side of the Story.
  5. On Conflict @ Nathan Bransford.
  6. GMCT: Goal, Motivation, Conflict, Tension @ Adventures in Children's Publishing.
  7. It's Not the Cougar @ Writer Unboxed.
  8. Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue @ The Blood Red Pencil.
  9. Telegraphing (and Other Pace Killers) @ Writer Unboxed.
  10. Setting the Pace @ Nathan Bransford.
  11. Bonus: Writing for Effect @ Flogging the Quill.
  12. Bonus: 7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Stephen Jones @ Guide to Literary Agents.
  13. Bonus: Writing a Hot Plot @ Kidlit.
Do you have any tips for creating tension in a story?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How do you tame your TBR pile?

I have a sickness, book bulimia, and the only cure is more cowbell or more books. I love the smell, the feel, and just getting lost in a story. Luckily my husband has his own sickness: music. So we have a general understanding when we can't control our book/music buying. To control my sickness, I have one rule: I can't buy more books until my TBR pile is down to three but then I binge--buying 6 to 8 books at a time. Then I purge through them so I can binge again.

MMGM has been bad for my sickness, every Monday I crave more books (so you need to stop picking good ones). And last weekend, I broke my rule and binged.

My TBR pile currently towers at 17 books and only because I knocked two off the list this weekend. Divergent by Roth and Beastly by Finn. Seriously, go read Joanne's review of Divergent (there is no way you'll be able to resist her review) and then go buy the book, read it tonight, and then we need to chat. Tomorrow. If you have time.

What's on my pile:

Middle Grade
  1. The Ogre of Oglefort by Ibbotson (currently reading)
  2. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Hahn
  3. The Graveyard Book by Gaiman
  4. Wimpy Kid #4 by Kinney (my daughter is reading this one)
  5. The Black Book of Buried Secrets (39 Clues) by Riordan
  6. Princess for Hire by Leavitt
  7. The Emerald Atlas by Stephens

Young Adult
  1. Wither by Destefano
  2. Real Live Boyfriends by Lockhart
  3. Invincible Summer by Moskowitz

  1. The Devil in the White City by Larson
  2. Heresy by Parris
  3. Little Bee by Cleave
  4. The Glass Castle by Walls
  5. Cutting for Stone by Verghese
  6. Devil's Brood by Penman (I uber loved Here be Dragons)
  7. Game of Thrones by... (yeah, my husband has this book right now, and I'm too lazy to look it up. Sorry.)

How do you tame your TBR pile and what's at the top of your pile?

I need help people.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

And we're back.

I picked this book because it won the 2011 SID Fleischman Humor Award Winner. After reading it, I packaged it up and I'm sending to my friend's children. A few months ago, my friend's husband, who has been battling cancer for 11 years, died suddenly of a blood infection. Their children are 9 and 8. The oldest, one of my daughter's best friends, has been struggling with the death of her father. I feel this book will bring her and her brother comfort.

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
Published in Sept 2010

Other books in the series:
Milo and the Restart Button (releasing sometime in 2011)

The Hook: A couple years after the death of his mother, Milo and his family still struggle to deal with their loss. When Milo's dad gets rid of all the memories of her, Milo must find a way to revive his memory of her.

Why I love this book: Voice and humorous way of dealing with a tough issue. The voice and style are very Wimpy Kid, and Milo is a lovable awkward character. For being about how to cope with death of a parent, the book is very light hearted and clever. Milo is just trying to fit in and get the cute girl to notice him. When Milo's neighbor wakes him up to holding on to the memories of his mother, Milo decides to search garage sales for things that would remind him of her. This is when I started bawling in the book and I could see my friend's children in their struggle with their dad's death. My friend said the one thing they wish they had more of was video of her husband. My heart aches for these children and any child that must cope with the loss of a parent. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost a parent or someone close to them. This is definitely a boy book but I think girls in a similar situation will appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I am a passenger on the spaceship Earth

So today was supposed to be She's Crafty but I got caught up reading Demon Glass (Hex Hall 2) and Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze (look for it as my next MMGM). That means no more time for writing or blogging. Must sleep. So I thought I would leave you with my favorite line from the middle grade book: A View From Saturday by E L Konigsburg:

I am a passenger on the spaceship Earth.

I love it because it illustrates a character changing a bullied remark into something whimsical. If only more kids could share this perspective. And you've got to admit, Earth is one heck of a ride.

Do you have a favorite line from a MG novel and why?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Published 2009

Other books by this author:
Year of the Dog
Year of the Rat

The Hook: When Minli, the daughter of poor farmers, buys a talking fish from a street vendor, she decides to find the Old Man in the Moon and change her family's fortune.

Why I loved this story: style and adventure. The writing is beautiful and it is a fabulous blend of Chinese folklore and adventure. It feels like a Chinese Wizard of Oz. Minli encounters many different characters along the way that lead her closer to the Old Man in the Moon and the treasure she wants to bring home to her family. The story has a great moral and reenforces the importance of family. This is a great book for girls. I tucked it into my daughter's TBR pile and passed it to a couple of friends. While there is a great adventure, boys probably won't identify with Minli.

Want More? Go to Grace Lin's website to see book trailers, interviews, and an audio excerpt.

I love reading about Chinese culture. I'm a huge fan of Amy Tan and I just read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. All fascinating reads. What culture do you love reading about?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Best of the Middle Grade Blogs: May 6

I can't believe it's Friday already. This week whipped by. I plan on getting a long back scratch this weekend by a bunch of little hands.

What are your Mother's Day plans?

My Fave Middle Grade Blog Post This Week





Other Round Ups

My eyes are blurry. Did I miss anyone?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

My story ideas come from the crazy that spews out of my kids on a daily basis.
  • One idea came out of a story I made up with my girls and then afterward realized, hey, that plot isn't half bad.
  • Another idea sparked out of my daughter's mouth on a walk.
  • Another came while watching my daughter make a blanket fort to keep monsters out.
Yesterday two of my daughters busily watercolored while I cleaned my kitchen. When they were done, my 4-yr-old brought me a crayon to write her story on the picture:

The people hid because of the monster damned. (I don't even know where she came up with could a beaver dam but I didn't want to call attention to it.)

But it was silly because the monsters were nice and wanted to be their friends.

(The picture looked like a freudian ink blot. )

Just thought I would throw this out as a writer prompt in case anyone needed it.

Where do you get your ideas for writing middle grade?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

She's Crafty: Querying

That's right, I'm finally ready with my manuscript. Cheers to heaven. I have a few beta readers ripping my partials one last time, but it is time. So this week I'm revamping my query.

Thankfully the blogosphere is there for me. There is a ton of info out there on querying, and Nathan Bransford helps you sift through contradictory advice. So keep in mind this is not gospel, just guidelines.

My Top 10 Fave Blog Posts on Querying
  1. Avoid the Obvious in a Query @ Kidlit.
  2. The Submission Process @ The Other Side of the Story.
  3. Query Don'ts @ BookEnds.
  4. Two Quick Tips on Writing a Query @ Pub Rants.
  5. The Difference Between Pitch and Query @ Janet Reid.
  6. Hints for a Great Cover Letter @ The Steve Laube Agency.
  7. Ultimate Blog Series on Novel Queries @ There Are No Rules.
  8. 7 Things Agents Want to See in a Query, & 9 Things They Don't @ Guide to Literary Agents.
  9. Loglines @ Random Notes from Holly Bodger.
  10. How to Write a Query Letter in Five Easy Steps @ Writer Unboxed.
  11. Plus: BookEnds does a Query Workshop every Wednesday.
  12. Plus: Query Shark...must follow.
  13. Plus: SlushPile Hell is a great resource for a laugh and what not to do.

When I finished my first draft of my first MG novel, I queried it to about 25 agents. Burned loads of rookie bucks. Hey, I thought I knew. I had read a few blogs, researched queries, found my agents on querytracker. So innocent then, so naive. I actually started my query with a rhetorical question. Oh yeah, I read on some blog it was a great thing to do. Suckers.

Have you committed a query crime? Don't know them? See Tahereh's fab list of 50 query tricks. [wink. don't do them.]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Let's Talk Writing MG: Who Comes to the Rescue?

Let's talk. In everything I've learned about writing for middle grade, a core characteristic is empowering the protagonist to save themselves and others. They are the hero. Not parents, automatons, teachers, older siblings, or monks. And sure, there are exceptions to the rule, I get that. But when I read it in middle grade fiction, it bothers me. I want the kids to figure it out, to save the day.

In We Are Not Eaten By Yaks by C. Alexander London, London does a great job of having the kids do most of the rescuing, but sometimes parents, monks, spirits, yaks swoop in to save the kids. He'd proven the kids could do it, empowered them and then had their mom show up and save them princess-in-a-tower style. I was frustrated, the kids were smart enough to do it themselves.

In The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby, the kids are empowered the whole book until in the very end, the automaton swoops in and saves Giuseppe. Giuseppe! I was mad. I'm verclipped.

In Harry Potter, Harry and friends always saved the day. No matter how frustrated you were with Harry that he didn't run to Dumbledore for help (seriously you would have thought he learned something at Hogwarts), Harry was left to figure it out even if it meant wandering way way way too long in the last book. But this is how it should be in the world of Middle Grade. (I guess if I think about it, even Harry had a bunch of adult team help. Is it impossible to empower the kids completely?)

When I pitched a MG story last year to an agent, my story had a magical element to it. The agent stopped me and said, "You have a great character why are you letting the magic save the day instead of him." At first I thought, well because the whole story is based on this magical realism. But the more I thought about it, I saw his point. I changed my story from magical realism to contemporary and I think it's loads stronger because the protagonist can't rely on what he believes will save him but must work to save himself.

These are my thoughts. Who do you think should save the day in a middle grade novel? And is it okay to have other people or things do some of the saving? What about working together with adults/things?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: We Are Not Eaten By Yaks (An Accidental Adventure)

[weekend sidebar] I did it. Half marathon. Am I hurting still? Well let's just say that stairs are not my friend. I flew to Utah to run the race with my sister. It snowed the first three miles. No more springtime races in the mountain states. The weather is too unpredictable. Will I do it again? In September. In Colorado.

I found my pick for MMGM while browsing B&N the other day and it was in the new release section. Why I grabbed it? Three words: adventure, tiger, Tibetan monk with a gun (that might be more than three words, don't judge me). My inner tough girl craves these things.

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks: An Accidental Adventure by C. Alexander London
Published in February 2011

Other books in this series:
We Dine With Cannibals (releasing sometime this year)

The Hook: The children of famous explorers, Oliver and Celia Navel want nothing to do with it. They'd rather watch TV and they watch a lot of it. When a clue to the whereabouts of their lost mother surfaces, their father drags them on wild Tibetan adventure.

Why I enjoyed this book: Adventure and wit. The children find themselves, very quickly, on a rip roaring adventure that would dizzy Indian Jones. This is the first book in the series and London sets it up well. It has a bit of everything and introduces bigger vocabulary similar to Lemony Snickets. After I finished, I threw it on my 8-yr-old's TBR pile. Oh and my kids couldn't get enough of the cover. Sucked them right in. They wanted to know what was happening based on the cover (and the fabulous illustrations inside). This is a great book for younger middle graders and, while it is a boy book, the twins will appeal to both boys and girls. Great adventure, fast read.

I did have one ticky complaint (as an aspiring MG writer) I could not get over. But I thought it would be a great MG topic for discussion. It'll post tomorrow.