Category Archives: middle grade

Re-illustrating the Cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T by Book Country Member Sherrie Petersen

Posted by June 23rd, 2015

Old and new cover for WISH YOU WEREN'T by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the new cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T, a Middle Grade novel by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen. WISH YOU WEREN’T is currently up for peer review on Book Country. Below, Sherrie shares what it was like re-illustrating the cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T with artist Fabián Cobos.

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We all know that the adage about not judging a book by its cover is ridiculous. EVERY book gets judged by its cover.  And while I had a lot of love for the original cover of WISH YOU WEREN’T, I knew it wasn’t conveying the excitement and adventure that readers would find between the pages.

I started studying the covers of my favorite MG sci-fi books, concentrating on stories that were similar to WISH YOU WEREN’T, which blends sci-fi, time travel and magic. When I found covers that demanded to be picked up, I looked inside to find out who the artist was. I discovered that one of my favorite artists had illustrated covers for several books that I liked, so I contacted him…and found out that he charged more to do a cover than I had earned in royalties for the past year. So that was a no.

I kept looking and was lucky enough on my second attempt to find an artist who was super talented and affordable. Hooray! Continue reading

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GABRIEL FINLEY & THE RAVEN’S RIDDLE: Interview with Author George Hagen and Editor Anne Schwartz

Posted by March 31st, 2015

GABRIEL FINLEY & THE RAVEN'S RIDDLE: Interview with Author George Hagen and Editor Anne SchwartzI had an amazing time reading GABRIEL FINLEY & THE RAVEN’S RIDDLE! Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, GABRIEL FINLEY follows twelve-year-old Gabriel on his journey to find his missing father with the help of his riddle-loving raven, Paladin. Set in Brooklyn, New York, this story was full of magic and plot twists; I didn’t know if Gabriel was going to make it until the very end! Author George Hagen shares what inspired him to write GABRIEL FINLEY and his experience writing for children for the first time. Anne Schwartz, the editor of GABRIEL FINLEY, shares what’s it like when a book clicks for her.

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Janet Umenta: Your two previously published books were written for adults. What made you decide to write a children’s book? How would you compare writing for adults with writing for children?

George Hagen: My younger daughter Lola challenged me to write her a book. She was 10 and specified that it should be both exciting and magical. I loved stories like that at her age, but my adult books were quite realistic in tone. Every weekend we took family walks across the Brooklyn Bridge to Chinatown for lunch, and I had to invent a story engaging enough to keep Lola walking. I learned quickly what kept her interest. Her favorite situations were a) when magic goes wrong, b) when children are more competent than adults, and c) when children have the power to communicate with animals. So, I followed those rules. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Middle Grade Writer Sherrie Petersen

Posted by June 17th, 2014

Member Spotlight: Sherrie PetersenToday we are talking to Book Country member Sherrie Petersen, whose book WISH YOU WEREN’T is a June Editor’s Pick. Connect with Sherrie on Book Country, and read on to find out more about her experience with beta readers, designing her own cover, and why she loves writing for middle graders. 

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Lucy Silag: Congrats on publishing your first book, WISH YOU WEREN’T. Tell us the story of how the book came to be, and how you brought it into the world.

Sherrie Petersen: I wrote the first page of this story several years back after watching stars with my kids one night. It was right before a writer’s conference where I had the chance to get feedback from an agent, an editor and an author. (Someone else read the page out loud, thankfully!) All three of them loved the voice, the setting, the mood that page evoked – they wanted to read more. That totally encouraged me to keep going. And despite many rewrites, the first page has stayed essentially the same. Continue reading

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Why #WeNeedDiverseBooks Helps Writers

Posted by June 4th, 2014

weneeddiversebooks

#WeNeedDiverseBooks has been a rallying cry among readers and writers on social media, calling to attention the lack of diversity in books, particularly in children’s and young adult genres.

It’s great to see so much attention focused on this important issue. Reading was a big part of my life growing up, but I always wished for more black female heroines in the children’s section of the library. According to a University of Wisconsin study, less than 8% of children’s books were written by or about people of color in 2013. Books are powerful in shaping how children and young adults view themselves and the world. In this increasingly connected and diverse society, it’s important that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual orientation, are able to experience the joy of seeing their stories told on paper.

Why #WeNeedDiverseBooks Helps Writers

Writers play a key role in making sure the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is a success. Readers are more than ready for diverse characters and plots in books.  This is a great time to look into writing about different cultures and people you haven’t considered before.

The myth that books featuring people of color as main characters are too “niche” and do not sell is false. #WeNeedDiverseBooks shows that there is a strong market for books that portray the diversity of our world.

What Writers Can Do

#WeNeedDiverseBooks challenges us to step away from our comfort zone and write about characters that may not look like us. Here are a few things writers can do:

  • Get acquainted with the wonderful writers, readers, and bloggers who are spearheading the campaign. A great place to start is the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter page.
  • Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks conversation in our discussion board: Writing the “Other”
  • Support books that depict diversity. Whether you read romance or science-fiction, show that books with diverse characters, cultures, and lifestyles are valued.
  • Commit to writing about a character with a different race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation than you. Just starting can open the door to new possibilities. The Summer Writers Club is a great avenue for this.

Leave a comment below telling us how you feel about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Also, drop by our discussion boards and share your plans or experiences writing the “other.”

 

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Q&A with GOLDEN BOY Author Tara Sullivan: “Books with heavy moral overtones are unpleasant for all ages”

Posted by December 19th, 2013

GOLDEN BOY coverTara Sullivan took time for a chat with us about her debut Middle Grade novel GOLDEN BOY. GOLDEN BOY is a harrowing story of 13-year-old Tanzanian albino named Habo, whose family is forced from their small village due to prejudice and misunderstanding. This book stood out to me as a serious and fascinating example of the powerful work that Middle Grade authors are writing. Read on to find out more about how GOLDEN BOY fits into the Middle Grade genre, but also strongly resonates with older teens and adults.

 

LS: You are a high school Spanish teacher, as well as an author. Tell me about how your experience in the classroom affected your writing.

TS: I have to say, I don’t know that there was much interaction between the two worlds—I write for middle grade readers and I teach high schoolers. The kids are always excited to hear book updates, though, and that’s fun.

LS: GOLDEN BOY has been embraced by the Junior Library Guild and School Library Journal. How do librarians play such a big role in the success of books for younger readers? What about teachers and librarians in the schools? Continue reading

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Tapping Into the Middle Grade World: Robert Paul Weston on Writing for a Kid Audience

Posted by December 18th, 2013

creature-department-bookWhen I dove into Robert Paul Weston‘s middle grade book THE CREATURE DEPARTMENT, about the lovable creatures living inside an electronics factory, I was struck by the immense task middle grade writers face.There is the challenge of appealing to an adult and kid audience, the duty to educate and entertain young readers without being patronizing, and the responsibility to start them on a lifetime of reading and loving books. 

We invited Robert to share his writing methodology and the arcane art of tapping into the world of a middle grader. 

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Tapping into the world of a middle grader is not easy and can be extremely dangerous. If you’ve ever tapped into a maple tree in the dead of January to extract the sweet, sweet nectar within, then you will have no idea how to tap into the middle grade world. Making maple syrup won’t help you. (This is probably a good time to admit that I am Canadian. To me and my people, maple syrup can always be forced into a clumsy metaphor for everything in life. Except this. It can’t help you tap into the world of a middle-grader.) To do that, you must follow these steps:

1. Have as much difficulty as possible dealing with the adult world. 

Adults are crazy and misguided. They ceaselessly, fruitlessly chase after A) money, B) influence, and C) “meaningful, authentic experiences.” Fools! If you want to tap into the world of middle-graders chase after the following: A) Clouds. B) Non sequiturs. C) Butterflies as big as hippos with flaming wings and two heads, one that looks like Mussolini and another one with a long neck like a giraffe. Hint: This creature’s name is Siegfried.

Continue reading

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