WRITING DAY WORKSHOPS

Longtime Writer’s Digest Editor, Chuck Sambuchino manages these one day learning experiences. I went to a recent event in Colorado but many are scheduled throughout the United States and occasionally Canada through 2020. I often don’t have 3-5 days to devote to some of the bigger conferences so this fits my schedule.

Here are three highlights from my day:

1. Pitch Sessions: Agents are available for 10-minutes pitch sessions. You sign up in advance ($29 fee for each) and the top agent slots go quick. I opted for two pitches with two different stories. I detailed my preparation here. I did get requests for pages from both agents so I must have been doing something right. Now it’s sit back and wait.

2. Kristin Nelson Query Presentation : Here I thought I knew everything about the topic of querying, but Ms. Nelson provided a fast paced look at the ins and outs of how to query and why rejections are made. The agency blog, PUB RANTS, is an excellent source for articles on writing and the publishing process. Search the boxes to the right on her page and you will find Kristin’s complete Query presentation.

3. Page One Readings: This hour and a half session gives participants a chance to hear their first page read out loud to a panel of 6-8 agents. They raise their hand when they’ve heard enough and if three hands go up the reading stops. A few never made it past the first paragraph (i.e., I was dreaming of better times…). Thankfully, you don’t put your name on the page so no one knows why you are squirming in the audience. The panel then discusses what was heard. My first page was plucked out of the pile and no hands went up! They read the entire page.  They liked the voice although one agent said her hand almost went up after one line that seemed to be more telling than showing.

That’s all for now. I have a new critique group reading another story so I’m anxious to hear their comments later this month. Baby steps…

Posted in Critiques, Literary Agents, Publishing, Resources, Writing | 4 Comments

MMGM for August 5, 2019

           

Click the cool sun to reach a blogger’s post!

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review and GIVEAWAY  of SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg.

June McCrary Jacobs has a special feature on the 75th Birthday Celebration for Smokey Bear!

Sue Heavenrich at Archimedes Notebook has a book for future Space Cadets: The Apollo Missions for Kids: The People and Engineering Behind the Race to the Moon, with 21 Activities.

A GARDEN OF BOOKS has a new release this week, Cardslinger by M.G. Velasco.

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea is all about elephants today with her review of Elephant Secret by Eric Walters.

Andrea Mack at That’s Another Story features a review of a “delicious” read in SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES by Margaret Dilloway.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends has a review of Spark by Sarah Beth Durst.

Rosi Hollinbeck has a review and GIVEAWAY of THE DOLLAR KIDS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

Mrs. Day’s Summer Reading Blog has a review of a book that may have missed your reading list, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend.

Susan Uhlig fell in love with the illustrated novel, A WOLF CALLED WANDER by Rosanne Parry.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including her take on NOT IF I CAN HELP IT.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

SWEET HOME ALASKA

Welcome to this week’s edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and my review of a sweet historical tale. There’s also a GIVEAWAY detailed below (U.S. Addresses only).

It’s 1934, and times are tough for Trip’s family after the mill in their small Wisconsinsweet home alaska pb cover town closes, leaving her father unemployed. Determined to provide for his family, he moves them all to Alaska to become pioneers as part of President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project. Trip and her family are settling in, except her mom, who balks at the lack of civilization. But Trip feels like she’s following in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps, and she hatches a plan to raise enough money for a piano to convince her musical mother that Alaska is a wonderful and cultured home. Her sights set on the cash prize at the upcoming Palmer Colony Fair, but can Trip grow the largest pumpkin possible–using all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise she can muster? (From Penguin Random House)

MY THOUGHTS: The hardback edition came out in 2016 and last month the bright and inviting paperback version was released.

Eleven year old Terpsichore (Trip) was named after the Greek Goddess of dance and song by her mother. Trip never latched onto the parent’s aspirations for her. She’d rather create recipes and plant prize winning pumpkins. Moving to Alaska seems like a bad idea at first, but she wants to stay positive like President Roosevelt has asked on one of his radio broadcasts.

The Alaskan wilderness is no picnic for the Johnson family. Trip and her two Shirley Temple loving younger sisters and a baby brother make the most of it. Sleeping in tents without electricity and not having the comforts they had back home are trying for everyone, especially their parents. Dad wants to make it work while Mom can’t wait for a permanent return to Wisconsin to be closer to her mother.

A house and barn are built before winter weather hits. Trip also meets new friends, an annoying bug loving boy and a nice girl who loves performing. But Mom is still insistent they will leave this horrid place the following September. Trip devises a plan to change her mother’s attitude and make Palmer, Alaska their Sweet Home.

Fifty-two chapters make this a great read aloud. It’s a quiet story but one that moves along at a nice pace. I’d never heard of Roosevelt’s New Deal program that took 202 families off relief to become farmers in Alaska. Quite the undertaking.

All the characters are well thought out and their personalities will make you smile. The harsh realities are detailed and as the author states in her notes—Over fifty percent of the original colony members left within five years.

Heartfelt and endearing. Pull up a chair, a piece of pumpkin pie, and dig into this time period we should never forget.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUTlaugh2

SWEET HOME ALASKA by CAROLE ESTBY DAGG

  1. Three “ships”: Friendships, family relationships, and hardships are woven together  with faith in community, making it a sweet combination.
  2. Trip’s collection of books and her pursuit to make a library for the residents.
  3. Her favorite book is Little House on the Prairie— a small tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  4. Reading about life without modern day technology may have you tucking away your phone for a day. or two. It’s a great way for kids to see the past and discover that talking face to face was and still is a good way to bring positive results.
  5. The excellent back matter material includes Author’s Notes, Resource links, and a few of Terpschore’s recipes (whip up a batch of Jelly Moose Nose). The pages end with a song, “When it’s Springtime in Alaska.

FAVORITE LINES

Mrs. Wilcox touched Mother’s arm and pointed to a corner of the tent that had been cordoned off with another sheet. “There’s a chamber pot; you won’t have to find your way to the outhouse during the night.”

Was that supposed to be reassuring? One chamber pot? In a tent shared by nine people. Terpsichore’s pioneer spirit was already flagging. In reading books about the pioneer days, she had never thought about things like outhouses and chamber pots

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carole Estby Dagg also wrote the middle-grade historical novel The Year We Were Famous. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lived in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. She has degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting. She spends most of her time writing and reading, but her real-life adventures include tiptoeing through King Tut’s tomb, sandboarding the dunes of Western Australia, riding a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddling with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelling the penguins in the Falkland Islands. She is married with two children and two grandchildren. Her son lives in Palmer, Alaska, and that is what inspired her to write this story. She splits her writing time between her study in Everett, Washington, and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides, visit her website: caroleeestbydagg.com.

GIVEAWAY!

Make a comment below and be entered into a GIVEAWAY for a new paperback copy of SWEET HOME ALASKA (U.S. Addresses only). You can also email me with your desire to enter at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com. Good luck!

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Note: I received a copy of the book for my honest review.

Posted in Historical fiction, Middle Grade Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

AMELIA FANG

WELCOME TO MY BLOG TOUR STOP FOR THE AMELIA FANG SERIES!

The first two books are out now with a castle full of zany characters and creatures. Here’s what to expect from Book #1:

AMELIA FANG AND THE BARBARIC BALL

image001A hilarious heavily illustrated middle-grade series for reluctant readers starring a vampire girl, Amelia Fang. Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares!

Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin, Squashy, and her friends Florence the yeti (DON’T CALL HER A BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents’ annual Barbaric Ball.

Then the king’s spoiled son, Tangine, captures Squashy, and Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue!

In their race against time, they begin to realize things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem….

MY TAKE: Heads come off and eyeballs roll  in this great series beginning.  It’s creepy but in a fun Adam’s Family kind of way. Young vampire, Amelia, finds the next King—Prince Tangine—to be the most obnoxious boy ever. He’s spoiled and gets anything he wants including her pet pumpkin. With help from Wooo, a ghostly butler and her other two bizarre friends she finds the secret of the Prince’s past.

Black and white images compliment the text well. Wide-eyed characters fill many of the pages including an eye or two popping out of Countess Frivoleeta’s head. She’s Amelia’s mom and sports quite the tall hair. Her vampire dad spends most of his time filling in crossword puzzles.

As one can tell early on, you won’t have to think too deeply to enjoy this one. The light, tongue in cheek humor is the perfect match for those emerging middle grade readers. There’s even a little lesson on how to be a friend. With all but one plot point wrapped up by the end, it opens the door (one of dozens at the Fang residence) to a new adventure in Book 2.

image002AMELIA FANG AND THE UNICORNS OF GLITTEROPOLIS

Amelia Fang and her friends love their dark and gloomy world of Nocturnia. But when Tangine’s mom, Queen Fairyweather, goes missing, they must brave the journey to the terrifying Kingdom of the Light.

With fairies and angel-kittens lurking around every corner, who can they trust? And will they finally uncover the real villain keeping the kingdoms of Light and Dark mortal enemies?

MY ADDED TAKE: Off they go to the Kingdom of the Light in this fast pace sequel. It won’t be long before one of them is turned into a bumble bee while the others have to fake being a real unicorn. The tongue in cheek adventure never gets too scary and many of the side comments made by the characters are of the laugh out loud variety.

It’s wacky and weird with a train ride on a rainbow, a pumpkin as a pet, and a Unicorn Banquet. The author must have had fun creating the character names like Fabio the Unicorn along with leprechauns McSparkle and McShine. The theme of cooperation and understanding is about as deep as it gets here. It’s one of those stories you can sit back and not have to think too much—just enjoy the ride.

For a look at author Laura Ellen Anderson and all the goings on in her world, visit her author web site.

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mmgm2

Coming up next Monday is another MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot on the walkway, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com

(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)

You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.

Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

BOBS AND TWEETS SCOUT CAMP!

School revs up for many very soon.  It’s also a time when new readers of middle grade books begin to poke around at the titles.  I inevitably get the concerned question from a parent.: My 7 or 8 year old isn’t quite ready to delve into the often intricate plots of an MG book. What is out there to bridge the time before my child is ready?

BOBS AND TWEETS is one solution. A chapter book filled with colored illustrations, the story is written in rhymed verse. It’s about two families who live on Bonefish Street. The Bobs are messy and the Tweets are neat.  First came MEET THE BOBS AND TWEETS in 2016, then book #2 PERFECTO PET SHOW (2017), and book #3 TRICK OR TWEETS (2018)

New this month is BOBS AND TWEETS SCOUT CAMP! Here’s the official word on the plot:

image014The Bobs and Tweets are back for a whole new summer adventure. Their next destination: camp! In Pepper Springfield’s latest book BOBS AND TWEETS:Scout Camp! readers join the Bonefish Scouts as Bus Driver Joan leads them on a trip filled with sing-songy hikes, breathtaking views, tippy canoes, smores, and more camp fun!

But when Scout Leader Mike splits the group in two for a “team-building” exercise that forces them into survival mode, the Bobs and Tweets must work together in order to overcome some serious challenges. Will the scouts be able to pitch a tent, build a fire, and boil water before the ominous storm clouds keep them from finding their way home?

Scout Camp!  flawlessly demonstrates just how far a little teamwork and problem-solving can go when learning new skills and having fun along the way!

The story is a fun one to read out loud. With 10 chapters covered in 60 pages, the tale will have you giggling at the inventive rhyming and whimsical illustrations. No surprises in the plot but be ready for breathtaking views, sing-songy hikes, tippy canoes, delectable smores, and much more. Hang on to summer a little longer and take a trip with Bobs and Tweets. They may remind you of someone on your own street!

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MMGM for July 28,2019

          

Click an arrow to reach a blogger’s post!

Here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE I have a review of OUT OF PLACE by Jennifer Blechar.

Sue Heavenrich at Sally’s Bookshelf has a double offering. Up first is a featured review of OPERATION FROG EFFECT by Sarah Scheerger. 

Sue also has Taking Cover, One Girl’s Story Of Growing Up During The Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homayoonfar. The book has been getting a lot of buzz on MMGM.

June McCrary Jacobs at ‘Reading, Writing, & Stitch-Metic’ has a special feature on Goodreads children’s book lists focusing on  great books from the early and mid-twentieth century!

Maria Antonia at Of Books, Photography, and Tea reviews a historical novel about Stalinist Russia called The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan.

Completely Full Bookshelf recommends Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson.

Beth Mitchell at Imaginary Friends has a review of Bodyguard: Recruit by Chris Bradford.

Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal reviews Chasing Helicity Into the Wind: Book 2 by Ginger Zee. A timely read with our unpredictable weather and the upcoming hurricane season.

Rosi Hollinbeck reviews ABSOLUTELY ALFIE AND THE FIRST WEEK FRIENDS by Sally Warner. Rosi also has some not to be missed links for her writing friends.

A Garden of Books has an upcoming release, Voyage to the Metal Moon from the new graphic novel series Escape from Planet Alcatraz series by Michael Dahl.

Julie at Bookish. Intoxication has been loving MG fiction lately and reviews The Runaways by Ulf Stark.

Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads has another informative MMGM post. Be sure to check out today’s feature and all of her reviews the past week including LET ME FIX THAT FOR YOU.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun and get your own spot in the parade, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count–but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you’re featuring and a link to your blog at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com
(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately–and please don’t forget to say what book you’re featuring)
You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening (11 PM Eastern Time) in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday.
Thanks for spreading the middle grade love and for being a part of this awesome tradition begun by Shannon Messenger and carried on here at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE! (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Posted in MMGM Links | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

OUT OF PLACE

THE PLOT (From Harper Collins Publishers)

Twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein’s year has gone from bad to worse. First, her best x510friend, Nina, moved from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. Then, without Nina around, Cove became the target of a bullying campaign at school. Escape seems impossible.

But opportunities can appear when you least expect them. Cove’s visit to a secondhand clothing store leads her to a surprising chance to visit Nina, but only if she can win a coveted place in a kids-only design competition. Cove doesn’t know how to sew, but her friend at the retirement home, Anna, has promised to teach her. And things start really looking up when a new kid at school, Jack, begins appearing everywhere Cove goes.

Then Cove makes a big mistake. One that could ruin every good thing that has happened to her this year. One that she doesn’t know how to undo.

PUBLISHED: 2019  PAGE COUNT: 304

MY TAKE: Martha’s Vineyard sounds like a wonderful place to be, but not if you’re Cove Bernstein. She’s grown up there and never been anywhere else. Her mom feels safe on the island teaching yoga and selling her framed quotes at the town’s Artist’s Market—staying clear of the commercialism and social media that controls the world. Dad is absent having left before Cove was born. When best friend Nina moves away, the other girls begin wearing elitist t-shirts with an unwelcome saying. They also bark when Cove is near and refer to her as Rover.

In desperation comes new friends from various generations that will help her cope. Same age Jack, twenty-something Jonah who works in a second hand clothing store, and dear Anna, living her days out in a retirement home. It’s a unique set of characters ready to support and encourage in different ways. Mailed letters to Nina also help keep their friendship active in a different way.

Told in first person by Cove, she accurately depicts the angst many tweens go through as the past and future pull in different directions. The setting and narration make this one shine.

laugh2FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUTlaugh2

OUT OF PLACE by Jennifer Blecher

  1. A reality TV show about a fashion competition in nearby New York City was the perfect connection for Cove and drove the plot forward in a unique way.
  2. The letters written by Cove and Nina were spot on for their voice and depiction of  being twelve-years-old.
  3. Martha’s Vineyard was not a place I’d ever read about in a MG book. Made me want to be one of those tourists visiting the shops and Artist’s Market.
  4. Not many illustrations but the ones included will often make you smile.
  5. Doing something before you think is the mistake made and learned from by many young people. The one Cove and Nina make are believable and rather heartbreaking.

FAVORITE LINES

I wonder now if Mom watched my dad leave. Did she wave to him from the dock as he drove his car onto the ferry? Did she feel as sad as I feel? Why didn’t she go with him? There are so many things I want to know, but one in particular that I need to know.

“Mom. please,” I say. “Tell me why we never leave Martha’s Vineyard.”

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HOW JENNIFER BLECHER FOUND STORIES IN HER OWN LIFE IN WRITING OUT OF PLACE…

Have you ever noticed how some girls sparkle? How they walk down the school hallways setting off confetti bombs of excitement? Jen is not one of those girls. Never has been, never will be. She’s the kind of girl who hangs off to the side, thinking and writing about what she sees.

When Jen was in fifth grade her family moved cities. At her new school a group of older girls decided that Jen looked like a dog. They barked at her in the hallways and called her Rover. It was no big deal! Jen was totally cool with it! So cool, in fact, that she didn’t tell a single adult about it for twenty five whole years. Because really, she could handle it!

Jen got married and became a mother to three wonderful, silly, creative girls. She wrote for magazines, for herself, and for her daughters. One snowy day, a character popped into Jen’s head. The character was twelve years old. She was sad because her best friend had moved away and she was left behind to face a group of girls who -you guessed it- barked at her and called her Rover… (For the rest of her story see Jennifer’s author web site)

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I received a copy for my honest review. Please comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments