Tag Archives | middle grade

Countdown of my favorite books – part 5.

Time to focus on middle grade again! These next two choices seem to be more for the library and school market. But the writing and the powerful storytelling in both were incredible.

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt

I’m sorry. But I almost didn’t read this book – and in fact didn’t pluck it from the library shelves for weeks – because the cover is so bad. It doesn’t show you anything about the compelling journey the main character endures, his struggles, his triumphs. I am so glad I read it. Once I started I couldn’t put it down. Pure story.

CHAINS by  Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve loved Laurie’s young adult works. Wintergirls is one of my favorite. I found CHAINS at our library and figured I’d give her historical MG a try. I loved how the story, based on the Revolutionary War, told a story we don’t often hear. That of a slave girl in the north, living with British sympathizers, and she’s a spy! I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Tell me about your favorites in the comments!

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Got a craving for a great story? Check out NOWHERE GIRL.

You know when you get a craving for something? Like candy corns. Or root beer? Or pickles?

Lately, I’ve been craving poetic writing that flows with rich language and evocative emotion but still has a great story behind it. I found that in NOWHERE GIRL by A.J. Paquette. As with most of my buys, I made this purchase after reading the first page.

Fourteen-year-old Luchi is anything but an ordinary American teenager. Born in a remote country prison in Northern Thailand, her mother’s death pushes Luchi into the outside world–and into the web of secrets that was her mother’s past. A coming-of-age story that follows a compelling character on her journey across continents, and oceans, and into a future she cannot begin to imagine.

Here it is on Amazon.

An extremely well written story, each sentence, each paragraph led me to the next one and then the next one. But it was more than just the writing. It was Luchi, the main character, and her journey to find the truth behind her family.

A thrilling story.

I asked Ms. Paquette how I could help promote NOWHERE GIRL. She mentioned there were several interviews that covered the basics. And she was right.

If you want to read about Joan’s publishing journey and how she balances being an agent and an author, click over to Anna’s blog.

“But so far there haven’t been any major conflicts, and in fact, the two roles feed off each other beautifully, each one supplying the energy and spark needed to bring out the best in the other.”

If you want to read about Joan’s writing process and how she developed such a rich character in Luchi, click over to Emu’s Debuts.

“My first drafts tend to be very slim—I definitely write short and return to add in layers afterward.”

“I love being able to immerse myself in a place and make my readers feel as if, even for just a moment, they have set foot on that ground too. What could be better than that?”

If you want to know more about researching a foreign setting and how to include that in your writing, click over to Kiss The Earth.

“Right from the start, the image of this tree-lined road burned itself clear and sharp into my mind—compounded by the fact that this road was the very one that Luchi would be traveling upon in her journey south.”

And come back on Friday when Agent Paquette answers the three top questions burning in writers’ minds today. You’ll find out Friday what they are! And about her new releases in 2012-2013.

Exciting stuff!

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HAPENNY MAGICK-What if trolls were to invade your village?

Welcome author Jennifer Carson and her soon-to-be-released middle grade novel! She’s a friend, crit partner, and an incredibly gifted artist and writer. You name it, she can do it. Read on to find out about HAPENNY MAGICK and Jennifer’s decision to fund her project with Kickstarter.

UPDATE: HAPENNY MAGICK HAS BEEN FULLY FUNDED! YAY!

As the tiniest Hapenny, a race of little people, Maewyn Bridgepost spends her days from breakfast to midnight nibble scrubbing the hearth, slopping the pigs, and cooking for her guardian, Gelbane, who never spares a kind word. As if life as a servant isn’t bad enough, Mae learns that Gelbane is a troll—and Hapennies are a troll delicacy.

Years ago, a spell trapped Gelbane in Mae’s village. Ever since, Gelbane has been chiseling away the magic spells that guard the village and now Mae’s community is destined to become a smorgasbord for half-starved trolls.

Tell us a little history behind the story.

Hapenny Magick began its literary life as a picture book manuscript, which is kind of funny, because so did To Find A Wonder! I wonder when I’m going to learn that I’m long winded? Anyway, I had asked a writing friend, who is a picture book author, to look it over. I kept thinking that something was missing–it just wasn’t right. And she said, “It sounds like the synopsis of a longer story.” The lightbulb went on and three years later, here’s Hapenny Magick. Thanks, Deb!

How did your love for the Renaissance and Middle Ages develop?

I’ve been enamored with these time periods since I was thirteen. That fall was the first time my parents took my to the Ren Fair in Michigan where I grew up. It became a tradition after that to go on my birthday. I love the richness of the language and the fact that, before REAL scientific methods were introduced, anything was possible.

Why the decision to publish through a small start-up small press?

I tried for a couple of years to find a traditional publisher that would pick up HAPENNY MAGICK and run with it, but deep down I knew this book wasn’t meant for mainstream media. There were no farting dogs, butt cracks or vampires. The story unfolds like a classic fairy tale and the market for these kinds of books right now are seen by the mass media as too slow to gamble on. Mass media outlets are great, don’t get me wrong, but they tend to not take risks and to produce the same kind of media message over and over again–the “payday” message if you will. That’s why we have not just one CSI but three. HAPENNY MAGICK isn’t a trendy book. It is a classic story that I’m hoping will become one of your favorites.

I went through a small press with TO FIND A WONDER and I could have gone back to that same press and published HAPENNY MAGICK, but I decided to give it a shot myself. I had the art connections and a husband that was supportive of the idea. I just needed the money to get the project through its final stages, and that’s where Kickstarter.com came in.

What exactly is Kickstarter? I’m curious.

Kickstarter is a site where people can support the arts and invention through donations that earn them rewards from the creators of the projects themselves. And the great thing is, when you pledge your support, if the project doesn’t meet its funding goal, you don’t pay. So you aren’t donating to something that may not come to fruition.

You can check out my Kickstarter site here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennifercarson/hapenny-magick-a-story-with-humor-and-heart

Thanks, Laura, for having me on your blog and for helping me spread the word! I’ve got 6 days to go to meet my goal!

Laura again. I’ve read this story from the first draft to the final. It’s a whimsical fun story filled with danger and magic. The illustrations through out the story are incredible. I’m buying one for niece. And for myself, of course.

And did you know that your donation will buy you copy? Pretty cool. Her first middle grade book, TO FIND A WONDER, is for sale on Amazon. The Kindle version is only 2.99! Check it out.

Please check out Kris Asselin’s blog for more information on Pugalicious Press. They are accepting submissions!

Here’s an illustration in progress from HAPENNY MAGICK.

And here’s the cover with Jennifer’s hand crafted doll of Maewyn, the hapenny.

Thanks Jennifer for sharing your work. I hope you get this book fully funded because kids are going to love it!

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How to find practical application power for your writing? Plot Busters.

What is Plot Busters?

Plot Busters is my attempt to strengthen my writing by studying the structure of published novels.

But I have a secret.

Some of you may think I created Plot Busters because I felt the innate desire to share all my expertise.

Not really. I’m not an expert. I don’t pretend to be.

In fact, looking back on my earlier Plot Buster posts, I realize I might break them down differently today. That’s how much I’ve learned doing this.

I am on a journey to become a better writer, and I knew I needed to study published novels to do it. I’d read the craft books, but I found them hard to apply. I had too much head knowledge and not enough practical application power.

My first attempts at it over a year ago were pretty pitiful. I had some turning points and the climax but I wasn’t sure how to break down each act. I’d written a middle grade ghost story that I absolutely loved. I wanted to rewrite it but I knew it was lacking structure.

Then I read Save the Cat and I loved how Blake Snyder broke down structure. So I started breaking down books. You can use many different methods to break down stories. The nine point grid (didn’t work for me), five acts, four acts, 8 sequences, three acts, hero’s journey – just to name a few. Find one that works for you.

My studies provided answers but also raised questions.

  • Do books have to follow structure?
  • When’s the best time to be flexible with structure?
  • Is it only high concept stories fit for film that work with structure?
  • Is there a difference in structure with middle grade and young adult books?
  • Is there a difference in structure with character driven vs plot driven books?
  • Do my favorite books follow structure or not?
  • Could some best sellers possibly have been even better with stronger structure?
  • Can strong writing, voice or a compelling hook make up for a weak structure?

So many questions. And I wanted answers.

Want to learn with me? Every Monday. Here. Plot Busters. Some books we’ll spend a month with and others one day.

Starting next week, we’re looking at THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, a young adult novel by Jandy Nelson. Because I was pretty sure a character driven book like that wouldn’t have a strong structure.

What do you think? Do character driven more literary books have strong structure?

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Why tough issues need to be dealt with in MG and YA books.

A boy walked along the railroad tracks.

A boy walked along the old railroad tracks. The one with a steep rocky incline that some people use to rock climb.

I don’t know why he took a walk that night. Maybe he does every night. Maybe he knew school started the next day, and he’d be buried under homework and sports. Maybe he was meeting a friend. Maybe he scrounged up a few dollars for a soda since there was none in the fridge.

For whatever reason, he left the safety of his home, his parents, his twin brother, and took that walk, breathing in the scent of fall winging on the breeze.

The first day of school comes. Friends from a tight knit group arrive, clutching their backpacks. It’s their sophomore year. They’ve grown up together, year after year. They played soccer, basketball, and baseball together. They watched the fireworks together. They swam together over the summer. They know the good, the bad, and the goofy. They remember the bad haircuts and the ugly clothes.

One girl settles in her seat in homeroom. She has a bad feeling. Two friends, twin brothers, aren’t in school. The one brother said something weird on Facebook that morning. The night before, one of them had been late returning home from a walk. The parents had called the police. That’s the last she knew of it.

The intercom crackles. And over the intercom, the friends learn that one of their own died the night before.

On the first day of school.

Yet these kids, barely 15, have to continue going to school day after day. They have to sit through math, listen to history lectures, go to ballet, attend church on Sundays. The world didn’t stop for their grief, their confusion, their numbness, their loss. They just know their friend isn’t there beside them anymore.

Parents forget about issues like too much texting, leaving boyfriends and girlfriends alone, or whether their kid made varsity or not. Now their kids are dealing with issues that no child should have to deal with. Now they worry when the haunting look will fade from their child’s face. Now they wonder how they can possibly support and be there for their child. Now they wonder when the emotional break downs will stop and their child will smile again. When will they smile again.

Books don’t replace counseling. Books don’t replace the hug of a parent or a friend. Books can’t mend a broken heart. But for a brief moment, a hurting child or adult, can find understanding, a friend, a place where they belong and can forget about their grief.

They can find words to their emotions and not feel so alone. And that might help them get through another day.

So yes, it’s okay for middle grade and young adult books to cover the tough issues. Because there are kids out there dealing with the tough issues.

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