Monday, March 31, 2008

Three Book Choices for Middle School Boys

It is important to introduce young people to quality writing and good story telling. I have reprinted the following article Three Book Choices for Middle School Boys by Rebekah Kogelschatz. Good stories encourage children to read. As a children’s writer, promoting reading is what I desire to achieve. Enjoy the article.

As a middle school teacher of students in advanced academics programs, I had the opportunity to read a selection of books for middle grade readers that were published in 2007. The books were selected because of their potential to be Newberry contenders. Although none of them were awarded the highest honor, they are well worth the time for your middle school student to read. These three selections may be of particular interest to boys, but also would be great for any girls to read also.

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson (Random House): Leepike Ridge is an exciting adventure of Tom and his quest to survive. After hearing the potential wedding plans of his mother and her boyfriend, Tom leaves his home to escape the thought of the marriage. He chooses to float down the nearby stream to clear his head. After a brief sleep, he finds himself slipping into an underground cavern in complete darkness. The story continues with Tom's determination to get out of the cavern alive and the many obstacles he encounters along the way. This story is a page turner with one exciting event after another.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (Clarion Books): The Wednesday Wars was a Newberry Honor book for 2007. Based in 60's, a 7th grade boy, Holling Hoodhood, is sentenced to Wednesday afternoons with his teacher while the other students attend religious training. At first, what seems like a curse of a unlikable teacher turns into a loving friendship and a great amount of learning about life and education. Holling's antics and situations will make any child laugh. With talk of baseball greats and rats running rampant through the school, any boy is certain to enjoy this story.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Carson Ellis (Little, Brown, and Company): The Mysterious Benedict Society is a longer book, but well worth reading all the way to the end. It follows a group of extremely gifted students that are hand selected to save the world from an evil man trying to control the minds of everyone in the world. The children have to go undercover in a boarding school to discover and foil the plans of Mr. Curtain with the assistance of Mr. Benedict. While trying to be selected to the coveted Messenger position, Kate, Constance, Stickie, and Reynie discover the world is not as easy to figure out even with the highest of intelligence. There are many plot changes and surprises throughout the book that makes the ending even better.

Encouraging boys to read is easy with a great book. Try one of these with your middle school boy or girl and be prepared for some excitement about reading.

Rebekah Kogelschatz is a gifted education teacher. She has taught all grades from pre-school to 8th grade in all subject areas. She is a co-founder of the site and the founder of a preschool resource site You can learn more about Rebekah by visiting her blog,
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Interview with Children's Author Claudia Mills

I am so excited to introduce children's author Claudia Mills. She has graciously consented to partake in this on-line interview. Thank you Claudia.

Claudia Mills received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College, her M.A. degree from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She also received an M.L.S. degree from the University of Maryland, with a concentration in children's literature. She worked as an editorial assistant at Four Winds Press (Scholastic) and as an editor at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Since 1991 she has taught philosophy, first as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, then as an assistant professor and now as an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has two children, Christopher Wahl and Gregory Wahl.

When did you decide to be a writer, or did it just happen?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. My mother brought me up to be a writer: when I was in first grade, she gave me a marble-covered composition book and told me it was to be my poetry book, so I started writing poetry to put in it. I wrote incessantly as a child – I still have a box stuffed full of poetry written on Kleenex, on paper napkins, on the margins of my math assignments. It was the only thing I ever wanted to be.

When did your professional writing career begin?

I worked for Four Winds Press/Scholastic in the late 1970s, and that was my entry into the wonderful world of children’s book publishing. I began trying to write my own manuscripts, submitting them to various New York publishers and receiving uniform rejections. Then I hit upon the brilliant plan of sending one of my own stories to Four Winds Press, using a pseudonym to escape detection. The story, like all my others, was rejected – and I had to type my own rejection letter! A second story suffered a similar fate. But then when I submitted my third story to Four Winds Press, my boss there, Barbara Lalicki, asked me to write an editorial critique of it for her. I did – and surprised myself by finding plenty in my own story to criticize. Barbara then wrote the author (me) a letter, which her secretary (me) typed, asking if I would be willing to revise the story according to the suggestions in my own critique. I complied with all the excellent advice I had received (!), and Four Winds ended up publishing the book, under the title At the Back of the Woods.

What role, if any, have writing groups played in your career?

I don’t think I could be a writer without my writing group. When I lived in Maryland I was a member of a writing group called The Soup Group; here in Colorado, I’m a member of a writing group that has no name (well, we do refer ourselves as the Belles and the Beauties, but that’s not our official title). I rely on my writing group for the first critique of every one of my manuscripts, as well as invaluable support and encouragement when the going gets tough.

Who or what inspires your ideas?

All my ideas have been inspired by my own childhood experiences, or by things that have happened to my two boys, who are now 19 and 16. Lately I draw a lot of inspiration just from the ever-fascinating elementary school curriculum. For example, in my most recent book, The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish, Amanda has a school assignment to keep a diary pretending she is a Civil War character, Polly Mason, who has one brother fighting for the North and one for the South. At the same time, Amanda is dealing with the “Civil War” within her own home: her parents’ separation. The book alternates between chapters of Amanda’s life and chapters of the diary she writes as Polly Mason. My book Being Teddy Roosevelt was inspired by the “biography tea” in which both my boys participated: each child had to read a biography and then come to school dressed up as the subject of the biography and impersonate that noted individual at a fancy tea party. And my book Trading Places draws on the popular Mini-Society curriculum, in which children create their own classroom society, with its own rules, flag, currency, and economy.

Does being a philosophy professor give you an added advantage when writing your children’s books?

It does make me more sensitive to the importance of theme in a book: what is this story all about? What is the small kernel of truth that it is trying to disclose?

Did you have an agent for your first published book?

I’ve never had an agent for any of my books.

What advice would you give a beginning author?

Well, of course, read, read, read, and write, write, write. Join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and attend their conferences. And find yourself a writing group.

What is your favorite genre?

As a child I loved fantasy, but now I write only realistic fiction, about real-life children at home and at school. I want to write (and love to read) the kind of story where the reader both laughs and cries, hopefully at the same time.

Do you have a favorite age group to write for?

It used to be grades 4-6, the age group for the middle-grade novel, but lately I’ve fallen in love with writing chapter books targeted at third graders. I love the brisker pacing. And I love writing about the small but painful challenges of children: mastering those pesky times tables! trying to convince your mom to let you do instrumental music. . .

What is the origin of your famous Ape Dance?

This is a dance I used to do in junior high school – and even on into high school (my high school yearbook features a picture of me doing the ape dance as a graduating senior). Because of the ape dance I was given (or gave myself?) the nickname of Tarzan, Queen of the Apes. So my first book-length manuscript was an autobiographical collection of stories about my 8th grade year, written when I was in 8th grade, called T Is for Tarzan. I usually close my school visits with a performance of the ape dance. So now you know!

Visit Claudia's website at
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How Not To Get Published

Editorial Anonymous (A blog of a children’s book editor) is an astonishing blog. It is written with truth, a bit of bawdiness and most of all some real good information laced with humor.

While surfing I found reference to two outstanding and outrageous posts. I highly recommend the read and if you aren’t wiping tears from your eyes then you aren’t reading it.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

A Few Good Links

Over the weekend I ran across more than a few good links while I was looking for relevant content. There is so much great stuff out there that I couldn’t decide what to post, so I decided to post links and let you surf and peruse around.

Margot Finke’s post on “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books” by Harold Underdown is one I don’t want to miss. Go here to read it.

And this link will lead you to dozens of guides on how to write children’s books!

Dottie Enderle’s website is very appealing. Click here to take a quiz and discover 10 tips for writing picture books.

One of my readers gave me this tidbit. Maybe some of you already know where to go to get the submission guidelines for the Cricket Magazine Group. I did not.

Have legal questions? Take a look at Writer’s Beware. This site has an abundance of information.

Another place to submit articles for sale is Writing for Dollars.

In Addition:

Have you ever wondered what to read when looking for ideas and examples for your nonfiction writing? I discovered one idea that said the best way to do this is to look in a bookstore under the topic you’re writing, (biographies or science, American history, etc.) and pull out a few books for the same target audience.

Certain authors of these books have made a name for themselves and they are who you want to study. Also ask your local librarian which titles are flying off the shelf.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Magazines for Kids - A New Generation, by Chris Piotrowski

Anybody who grew up in the 60's and 70's will probably remember the old standby children's magazine, Highlights for Children. For me, it was the only thing I liked about going to the dentist. My mother was a stickler for healthy teeth, and dragged all five of us every six months in to see our dentist for our biannual checkup.

The waiting room was standard fare for the time - a pot of coffee hissing and steaming in one corner, a row of chairs lining each wall, and in the corner an end table cluttered with a pile of assorted magazines to help pass the time until your name was called. Always somewhere in that pile was at least one copy of Highlights magazine, filled with enough stories and puzzles to keep my mind off the possibility of impending doom in the dentist's chair.

Today, the choices for children's magazines have grown exponentially. No longer are you limited to Highlights and a handful of others - there are literally dozens of quality kids' magazines to keep your young readers entertained and coming back for more. No matter what your child's area of interest, there is bound to be something to suit his needs perfectly.

For animal lovers, you can't go wrong with Zoobooks or Ranger Rick - both are long-time favorites that help kids sharpen their reading skills and develop a deeper appreciation for our natural world. For the younger set, there's Zootles for 2 to 6 year olds, which includes a featured animal, number, and sound in each issue, and Your Big Backyard, for ages 3 to 7, which draws preschoolers closer to nature and gets them ready to read. Youngsters will enjoy the seasonal crafts, simple cooking recipes, fun games, and more.

Along those same lines, there are a number of science magazines to engage young readers with their dramatic color photography and informative kid-friendly text. In Kids Discover, each issue investigates a single high-interest topic in science or social studies, engaging its readers with compelling content. There's Muse, a science and discovery magazine for children ages 10 and up from the publishers of Smithsonian, as well as Odyssey, a physical and space science magazine written in language that kids between the ages of 10 and 15 can understand and enjoy. The younger set will enjoy Click, an educational, skill-building publication for ages 3 to 7 that is colorful and easy to read, making science accessible to even young children.

Perhaps the most popular and quality-driven of the children's magazines today are the Cricket line of magazines, a literature-oriented series filled with wonderful illustrations. They contain no outside advertising and are available for every age group. The series begins with BabyBug for ages 6 months to 2 years, followed by Ladybug for 2 to 6 year olds, Spider for 6 to 9 year olds, Cricket for 9 to 14 year olds, and Cicada for ages 14 and up.

If you're just looking for something to keep your kids entertained on a rainy day or on short car trips around town, there are plenty more to choose from besides the more educational titles mentioned above. MAD Kids is all about fun, with jokes, puzzles, cartoons, dumb interviews, and much more. Nickelodeon magazine is the award-winning magazine from the number one network for kids. It keeps kids of all ages entertained for hours with celebrity interviews, comics, pull-outs, puzzles and more. Its sister magazine, Nickelodeon Fun Puzzles & Games, is filled w/full-color, fun puzzles like word searches, mazes & easy crosswords, plus riddles and pictures to draw, featuring favorite Nickelodeon characters.

With children's magazines, the possibilities are endless. They make perfect gifts, and while they may not be the most exciting gift to open at the birthday party, the joy on a child's face every month when he receives his very own magazine delivered right to his mailbox is priceless.

With the wide variety of titles available for children, there is bound to be something for every child in your life. For more information on the above titles and many more, visit Mile High Magazines at
Chris Piotrowski is the owner of Mile High Magazines (, an online retailer of over 1200 magazines, including 50 children's magazines.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Join the Club and Become a Successful Children's Author

What does it take to become a successful children’s author?

Join the club. The Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club (that is) (CWCC).

From the comfort of your own home you will learn how to develop a career writing for children. The children’s writing market is growing by leaps and bounds and publishers are looking for good writers. Good writing doesn’t just happen.

When you join the CWCC you will have access to four 55 minute teleclasses each month and four manuscript critique sessions for the low price of $27.00 per month. In addition you will have the opportunity to listen to published professionals like Suzanne Lieurance (founder of CWCC), Margot Finke and Simon Rose who will teach you all the tricks of the trade.

Is your interest peaked? Join the club now and you will be on your way to fulfilling your dreams as a published children’s book author.

Click Here. Don’t be shy.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eight Links to Expand Your Writing Know-How

There are literally thousands of web sites and blogs that are useful to writers. This wealth of information can be overwhelming. How does a writer, especially a new one, know who, what or where to turn? To help keep your mind from going wacka wacka and to help you cut through the cyber maze, I have chosen eight informative links for writers of children’s books, stories and articles that may be helpful.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trading Places by Claudia Mills - Book Review

Trading Places
Author: Claudia Mills
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Reading Level: Ages 9 - 12
ISBN: 13:978-0-374-31798-0
Hardcover: 138 pages

Amy and Todd Davidson learn that things in life rarely turn out perfectly and that labels don’t always fit. Amy and Todd are fraternal twins who get along as well as any other brother or sister except they share the same birthday and the same classroom. This is where the similarity stops. Amy is the poet, sentimental and a bookworm while Todd is the engineer, super organized and an over achiever.

As the twins begin their Mini-Society school project things get flipped upside down at home. Their father loses his engineering job and their mother takes a job at the local craft store. The father becomes depressed and hangs around the house in his pajamas all day. This turns out to be an embarrassing situation for Amy when her best friends come home with her after school. Learning how to cope with change becomes a daily experience.

Through the alternating view points of Amy and Todd, Trading Places shows how acceptance of non-traditional roles can open minds to change. Claudia Mills has artfully written about a common problem for many families in today’s changing economy. Her easy going prose presents a realistic solution to a difficult situation in words for the “tween” years.

The fundamental message is about how change can affect everyone in the family, even Wiggles the dog. Amy and Todd learn that change can be good and they learn that opportunities in life pop up when you least expect them too.

This story has all the characters that you would expect to find in a regular classroom. The super shy girl with no friends, the clumsy kid who is a walking accident, the class show off and several more. This is an attention-grabbing read for middle graders.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Publisher Seeks Fiction, NonFiction for Children with a "Hook"

Do you write fiction and nonfiction picture books and books for middle grade readers? Then this information is for you.

Pelican Publishing Company primarily publishes fiction and nonfiction picture books and books for middle grade readers. They have a wide variety of categories such as; folktales, history, multicultural, stories related to the South and holiday stories.

All books should have that special “hook” that appeals to a specific audience which will set them apart from general fiction. Pelican Publishing Company is also interested in books that can grow into a series. However, they do not want any anthropomorphic stories, pet stories, fantasy, poetry, science fiction or romance. Picture books (ages 5-8) should not exceed 1100 words. Middle grade books (ages 8-12) should be at least 25,000 words.

Pelican Publishing Company does not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

All writers should send a query letter and SASE, describing the project briefly and concisely.

The book’s title must be clearly stated at the top of the query letter or in the first sentence.

The letter should then discuss the following: the book’s content, its anticipated length (in double spaced pages or in words), its intended audience, the author’s writing and professional background and any promotional ideas and contacts the author may have.

If an author has been published by another firm please indicate why a change is sought.

A formal synopsis, chapter outline, and/or one or two sample chapters may be sent with a query letter, but these are not required. If absolutely necessary, very short manuscripts (four pages or less) may be sent in their entirety.

Pelican responds to queries in one month. If Pelican requests the manuscript, it must be submitted exclusively.
Submit all queries with a SASE to Editorial Department, Pelican Publishing. Co., 1000 Burmaster St., Gretna, LA 70053.

For more information visit their web site at

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Editorial Calendars: A Cheat Sheet for Writers

Typically, magazine editors like to work at least six months in advance. Articles submitted the month of March describing fall, pumpkins, Halloween parties and colorful leaves will be right in line with their needs.

An Editorial Calendar gives you a slew of topics to pitch and research for. For instance, it is probable that magazine editors will be inundated with pitches for Halloween. But if you have an editorial calendar prepared you can give your creativity a boost by writing about topics that are not published as often. Below are a few ideas/links to get you started writing winning articles for the fall. You can add your own as the year progresses.

Columbus Day
Dryer vent safety month
National Bosses Day
Cooler weather
Halloween Costumes
Right-brainers rule month
Raking/celebrating leaves
National breast cancer awareness month
National domestic violence awareness month
Daylight savings time ends (Fall back)

Editorial calendars are a writer’s best tool because they double as cheat sheets. They can also give you an edge for submitting timely queries that are bound to attract the attention of a thankful editor.

Furthermore, writers who submit articles for magazines know the importance of researching all those back copies. Editorial calendars will help you to focus on a particular topic rather than having to scan all topics. Writers are busy people and need to make their research time effective.

By creating your own Editorial Calendar you are mapping out a successful plan for your writing career.

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