Tag Archives: Razorbill

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. 

***

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

Share Button

Exploring Middle Grade Fiction with Razorbill Editor Gillian Levinson

Posted by December 12th, 2013

Gillian LevinsonToday our guest is editor Gillian Levinson. Gillian edits books for young readers at the Razorbill imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group. We wanted to talk to her because she’s an expert on Middle Grade Fiction, one of the Young Adult categories that is getting more and more popular within the Book Country workshop. Check out what she has to say about her work and its place within this fascinating genre.

LS: You are a passionate editor of Middle Grade Fiction at Razorbill, which to me says you are the perfect person to define for Book Country what “Middle Grade” really means. What’s your working definition?

GL: Well, technically, a middle-grade book is one for readers 8-12 years of age in which the protagonist of the story is also around that same age. One mistake that rookies often make is thinking that because children regularly read up, a novel’s protagonist can be quite a bit older than the target readership (say 14 or 15 years old). Unfortunately, however, that’s typically not how books are shelved in stores. If a particular novel’s protagonist is in high school, for instance, many stores will not stock that book in the Middle Grade section.

In terms of genre or subject matter, Middle Grade can really be anything, but all the best Middle Grade books give the reader a real sense of escape—it could be into a fantastical world or into a historical period or into the life of a child whose life experience feels somewhat removed from that of the reader—while integrating universal emotional experiences (e.g. wanting to belong, wanting others to heed one’s opinions, wanting to feel loved, etc.). Of course, the argument could be made that most great works of fiction, irrespective of target audience, offer that same combination of the personal and the unfamiliar, but in Middle Grade, it’s absolutely central.

Continue reading

Share Button

Interview with Nora Price, author of ZOE LETTING GO

Posted by August 22nd, 2013

On a recent Friday afternoon, I came across a paperback copy of a Young Adult Contemporary novel by Nora Price called ZOE LETTING GO. Zoe, the main character, has been taken by her mother to a mysterious hospital called Twin Birch, where the only other patients are girls who are frighteningly thin. Zoe isn’t like them, so why did her mother bring her there? Terrified and confused, Zoe writes letter after letter to her best friend from home, Elise. But Elise won’t write back.

Within just a few pages of ZOE LETTING GO, I was absolutely hooked. I spent that entire Friday night on my couch, reading until I got to the end of Zoe and Elise’s story. Price really goes deep into their friendship, revealing bone-chilling insights about these characters and their world.

As writers, there’s a lot we can learn from the way ZOE LETTING GO engages with sensitive issues like eating disorders and self harm. I reached out to ZOE’s author, Nora Price, to find out more about how she avoided cliches in her work, as well as how she handled the intense struggles affecting her characters. Here’s what she had to say:

LS: In the back of my copy of ZOE LETTING GO, it says that “Nora Price is a pseudonym for a New York-based writer and journalist in her late twenties.” Can you share with us why you chose to write this book anonymously?

NP: Yes, absolutely. The answer is that I’m very shy! I get tremendously anxious speaking in public or having my picture taken, which are both things that many authors do (and do well!). When making the decision, I did spend a lot of time hemming and hawing; worrying that to publish under a pen name was irredeemably cowardly. I still think it is a little bit cowardly but I’m not sure I would have published the book otherwise, to be completely honest.

ZOE LETTING GO cover

The paperback for Nora Price’s ZOE LETTING GO came out this month from Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group.

Continue reading

Share Button