Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogging Break and Giveaway Winner!

I will be taking a blogging break until January 5, 2012, but be sure to visit the links in my right sidebar each Monday
for great middle grade recommendations!

And . . . as for my secret about having a paperback of a book not yet available in paperback, well, maybe it's not so mysterious after all. The publisher is Arthur A. Levine (an imprint of Scholastic) and the back cover of the book says, "This edition is available for distribution only through the school market." Although I have no ties to getting books through the school market, so, hmmmmm, perhaps there's still a bit of mystery involved. (But not really. I found the book--brand new!--at Half Price Books).

And now, the answer to one more secret! The name drawn from the brown paper lunch sack for
The Romeo and Juliet Code is:
Arlyce Muth!
Yay! You've won one of my favorite reads of 2011!!
Email your mailing address to barbarawatson94 (at) gmail (dot) com so I can get
this historical fiction doozy to you! Enjoy!
As for unraveling the secrets in this wonderful book, everyone make sure to read it and discover those on your own.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The ABC's of Middle Grade: F is for Friends and Family

Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it. I couldn't choose between friends and family for my Letter F in middle grade writing. Besides, how can you choose between friends and family in any situation? It's utterly impossible. I wasn't going to put that weight on my shoulders. Whew. *wipes brow*

Friends are a HUGE part of every middle grader's life and, therefore, must be a focus in middle grade stories. Friendships often change during middle grade years and reading a story where characters are experiencing friendship change can bridge understanding for kids.

Family is another HUGE part of middle grader's life. Change happens in families too--a death, divorce, a mom or dad's new job, a new sibling, adoption, sibling rivalry (just to name a few)--and reading about these situations helps kids see they are not alone.

There is so much else to say about the mingling of friends and family in middle grade stories; this really doesn't even begin the conversation. But since I planned these alphabet posts to be ones of discussion and learning from one another, how about telling how you fit the roles of friends and family into your writing? And, if you care too, share a book you feel melds these two areas in a wonderous way.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Romeo and Juliet Code (a giveaway too!)

Even though several MMGMers have already featured this book, I'm SUPER excited to do it myself because it falls in my FAVORITE middle grade genre--HISTORICAL FICTION!! Alright. *attempts to reign in enthusiasm* That was an awful lot of capital letters.

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone is set in the United States in 1941. Most of the story takes place prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but Felicity is a British girl--sent to live with her American relatives--so she has already seen World War II at her front door. This is a many-layered story, one of family, questions, friendship, and mystery, and it has a little something for every type of reader.

The premise: When Felicity's parents bring her across the ocean to stay with relatives she's never met, she knows there's more to the story than the dangerous conditions in London during World War II. There are secrets everywhere. Her parents have secrets, her relatives have secrets, there is a secret person who doesn't come out of a bedroom upstairs, there is another room whose door is always locked, and secret coded letters arrive for Felicity's Uncle Gideon. Felicity decides to crack the code and all the other secrets too.

What keeps readers reading: It's the mystery and intrigue. Or maybe it's the quirky, fun characters. Wait, perhaps it's the voice of the story. No, it's the appeal to both girl and boy readers. Okay, I got it, it's the story's fresh take on World War II. Sheesh, I just loved everything about The Romeo and Juliet Code. The balance of elements presented by  Phoebe Stone is amazing, the issues her book brings to the surface make readers think, and a little bit of Shakespeare never hurts a story. Many layers, I tell you. Unravel the code and secrets along with Felicity.

And . . . I'm giving away a copy of The Romeo and Juliet Code! The one I have for the giveaway is a paperback, but don't ask why I have a paperback of a book that isn't out in paperback yet (and it's not an ARC) because that is a secret. U.S. mailing addresses may enter for the giveaway by commenting on this post by Sunday, December 11, 2011, 8pm CST. Read and discover the intrigue.

Other MMGMers and their choices this week
Check my right sidebar ~~~~~>
Happy middle grade reading!  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giveaway Winner of Brigitta of the White Forest

The name my daughter drew from the brown
paper lunch sack today is:

Megan Frances!
*lots of metallic sparkles*
(Seems appropriate for a faerie fantasy) 
Megan writes a fantastic blog called Beyond Words & Pictures 
 (as well as writing books and creating beautiful art)!

Megan, please email your mailing address to the email listed
under my contact tab and I will mail this
fantasy adventure to you! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The ABC's of Middle Grade: E is for Embellish

Embellish. It's a pretty word as it floats off the tongue, a verb meaning to make fancier by decorating, exaggerating (such as saying "I've told you a million times"), or . . . adding details to a story to create more interest and excitement. The last part is the part I'd like to focus on--the adding details part.

Well-written stories balance detail with action; they flow flawlessly between these two things. So, how do I know when I've embellished enough? How do I know when I've embellished too much? It's a fine line, and one I struggle seeing in my own writing.

Is it just me, or do you struggle with this too? I've heard published authors say they've cut hundreds of pages from their stories while they're revising. Joanne Fritz heard Richard Peck say (and I'm indirectly quoting him here) when he thinks he's cut everything he can, he then cuts twenty more words--because you can always cut twenty more words. I found that fascinating.

We all know that embellishing is key to story-telling, but (and here comes my impossible question this week) how do you know when you've achieved the right balance of detail and action? In other words, how do you know when embellishing is not adding interest or excitement to your story?