Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books, YA Novels

Allies

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Allies (Scholastic Press, 2019) by Alan Gratz is an amazing story of diverse parts of D-Day over the course of 24-hours through the eyes of seven different characters. Soldiers, paratroopers, medics, resistance fighters, a girl retrieving a forgotten bathing suit–so many in an impossible situation. Somehow the author fits it all together.

The story starts with sixteen-year-old Dee, a US soldier, who has a secret–one he can’t let his best friend discover. Will he survive the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944? Will the others we meet?

Bestselling author Alan Gratz has written many books for young readers, including four more set in this time period–Grenade, Refugee, Projekt 1065, Prisoner B-3087. Read about all his books here. Read about the author here.

Read more about Allies, including awards, here.

Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Discipline

Recently, I had a student say children’s writing was “more challenging and restrictive” than she’d thought, and she was considering changing to an adult audience. It may be true that writing for adults is more a fit for her.

Or it might not. With this particular student, we’d only done three lessons together. She hadn’t tried nonfiction, which might be her niche if she’d give it a chance. The real issue, however, is that many of the mistakes she was continuing to make would be a problem for adult readers. So, audience wasn’t the issue. Could it be discipline?

My mother taught piano lessons in our home. I heard her students play scales and play scales. No one learns piano just to play scales—they want to play music! However, scales are a necessary step in the process. Students moved on to simple melodies and, if they worked at it, they advanced to more complicated songs. My mother could tell when students hadn’t practiced in between lessons. They weren’t improving. Writing is similar.

We have to practice, practice, practice no matter whether our audience is children or adults. We must learn the basics of fiction writing: grammar, point of view, setting, characterization, plot, etc. if we are going to succeed.

Like most instructors, I will re-explain a grammar issue, point of view, etc. in a different way in hopes that will work for the student. But sometimes I wonder, did she read what I wrote in my previous letter? Did he even try?

In both courses I teach, we give the students deadlines. Deadlines encourage discipline. Often, the students that progress the fastest are the ones who meet or beat the deadlines. Each lesson builds upon the ones before. When too much time passes between lessons, students forget what they learned earlier. I have to reteach concepts. It slows their progress which can cause frustration for both of us.

All writing is challenging in one way or another. Sometimes it’s coming up with the idea or angle. Or making a character and/or setting come alive. Or perhaps the plot isn’t working. Or the dialogue. But once those frameworks are in place, we still have to check for flow, get rid of unnecessary words, add more detail or information when necessary, etc. And, of course, proofread. The first story I sold to Highlights went through two revisions with the editor before it was accepted. This was after it had been critiqued by fellow writers and revised several times.

I love this quote from Harper Lee, “To be a serious writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It’s sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it in you or not.” And as Patricia Wrede said, “Talent is way down on the list of things you need to write; it comes in a distant fourth, after persistence, motivation, and discipline.”

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Ogre Enchanted

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

If you’ve read Newbery Honor Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, you’ll know you’re in for a treat with Ogre Enchanted (Harper, 2018). (And if you haven’t read Ella, you should.)

This is a gender reversed Beauty and the Beast inspired story. Read more what the author has to say about that here.

Fifteen-year-old Evie is enchanted when she turns down a marriage proposal from her best friend, Wormy. Now she has 62 days to accept a new marriage proposal or remain an ogre for ever. What will all her patients do?

The book is funny and keeps one guessing. Is that tingle because Evie the ogre loves the guy or that she thinks he’ll taste good? The countdown of days adds to the tension.

Read about Gail Carson Levine here and check out her other books here.