Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday well-wishes from the Mafiosi

Hello All,

No Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post from me today. (Eeek! Is it Armageddon?! Have the mafiosi been raptured?!) No, no such luck.

There are several factors explaining my absence, though. My middle son just finished his 5-week-long professional production of Frankenstein, the Little Monster. (Guess who he played?!) So we were out celebrating. And then, my oldest son has to have one of his semi-regular sleep deprived EEGs to keep tabs on his epilepsy. Night-owl Mom will stay up with him till midnight--this mafioso needs his sleep!!--and I will crawl from bed at 4 a.m. to make sure he's awake and then drag his to the lab for his 7:30 appointment.

Finally, I have a few Cybils-related activities to deal with. So, with all that on my plate, Don Vito has ordered me to rest from my blogging labors and fill up on panettone.

I will be making merry till the end of the month. I hope the rest of you have a wonderful holiday season--and I'll see you in 2012.

Buone Feste!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Most Wanted

Most Wanted by Kate Thompson (Greenwillow Books, 2010) Nominated for the Cybils by Anamaria Anderson. (All opinions are my own, and are not meant to reflect those of the entire panel.)

Interested in ancient history? The civilizations of Greece or Rome or Egypt? Then you'll enjoy this tautly written tale.

From the flap copy: While making his daily deliveries, a baker's son suddenly finds himself holding a stallion's golden lead. Soon the boy discovers that this isn't just any horse. It's the most powerful creature in all of Rome.  What will the mad Emperor do if he finds the boy with his prized horse? Cut off his head? Or worse?

As you can see, this is a plot-driven story. Cleanly written, it moves fast and also has some energetic artwork that really works well with the narrative. It would be perfect for a 2-4th grader who enjoys action, horses, and history.

The author, Kate Thompson, lives in Ireland and is a prolific writer. I enjoyed my visit to her website.

Have a marvelous middle grade Monday, everyone!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

How It All Went Down (The Bakers' Dozen Auction, I Mean)

To recap: My MG novel, Shakespeare on the Lam, was one of the entries in Authoress's Bakers' Dozen Agent Auction. Which meant my logline and first 250 words got a whole bunch of amazing and helpful critiques. And then on Tuesday, starting at 11 EST, the agents started bidding.

Was I glued to the action on screen? Well, I would have been--except that Tuesday was the day for my annual adventure with my father-in-law to snag the cheapest Christmas tree in the tri-county area. Last year I blogged about my trophy, the $10 tree that fell off a helicoptor on its way to Mexico. This year, we took a much more leisurely tack and bought $20 Groupons for Christmas trees and a half pound of organic coffee out at Boring Bark. (The Boring bit is the name of the town, not too far from Portland.) My father-in-law's 9 foot Noble is a nice-lookin' tree--and without the Groupon it would have cost $60. So we were chuffed little happy campers.

I got home around noon PST, to an excited voice mail from my wife. She'd been snooping over at the auction and called to let me know that several agents had been bidding, and that the full manuscript of Shakespeare had gone to Victoria Marini, an agent at the Gelfman Schneider agency (the agency that represents one of our favorite writers, Chris Bohjalian.)

I followed Authoress's instructions and e-mailed the full to Ms. Marini. She has a week's exclusive. After that, other bidding agents can make requests.

It was great fun, and I have to thank Authoress for the auction and for the sense of community she fosters on her blog. If you haven't found Miss Snark's First Victim, do yourself a favor and check it out. As one commenter once wrote, it's like for agents and authors.

Of course, I had to share the news with the Don. His reaction: "Marini? Italian name. I'll send her a panettone, a couple of bottles of my best cellared chianti." Very nice. I've given up trying to convince him that agents can't be bribed. Let him have his fun.

So there you have it. I'd worry and fixate, but I still have a ton of Cybils books to read and a Christmas tree to decorate. I'll see you all on Monday for some Marvelous Middle Grade. Have a great weekend.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Addie on the Inside

One thing all this reading for the Cybils has taught me: I no longer dislike novels in verse. The latest of these, which has totally cured me of my phobia, is James Howe’s Addie on the Inside. (Nominated for the Cybils by Tasha Saecker. All opinions are my own, and are not meant to reflect those of the entire panel.)

Addison “Addie” Carle is living “the purgatory of the middle school years” in a small town in upstate New York. She is an only child, opinionated, and her best friends are a group of misfit boys. One of the misfit boys, Joe, is gay. Addie starts a gay-straight alliance at her school and is taunted accordingly.

Howe, the author of Bunnicula, catches the rollercoaster emotions of middle school with perfect pitch. I have to believe this book was written by Addie, pure and simple, not a sixty-something author. And Addie is a complex character. She stands up for her beliefs, yet part of her also struggles with not being popular and with having the other girls taunt her. Weaving in and out of the narrative is her relationship with her boyfriend, DuShawn; the tender moments, the fights, the break-ups, the getting back together, the final break-up. But through it all Addie is resilient.

Here is part of her final poem:

I am a girl who is growing up
in my own sweet time,
I am a girl who knows enough
to know this life is mine.

I am this and I am that and
I am everything in-between.
I’m a dreamer, I’m a dancer,
I’m a part-time drama queen.

I’m a worrier, I’m a warrior,
I’m a loner and a friend,
I’m an outspoken defender
of justice to the end.

I’m the girl in the mirror
who likes the girl she sees,
I’m the girl in the gypsy shawl
with music in her knees.

As far as I’m concerned, this should be compulsory reading in every middle school classroom. And if you have a strong, spirited daughter who stands up for her beliefs, yet also feels the pressure to conform: THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HER. GET IT FOR HER!

(James Howe doesn't seem to have a website, but he does have a Wikipedia entry. You can read about him HERE.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mafioso On the Auction Block

Ever wondered what sort of stuff I write when I'm not entertaining the world with my blogging and tweeting skills?

Well, you have the chance to view--and even critique--the opening of my middle grade novel, SHAKESPEARE ON THE LAM. It was one of 35 YA/MG entries (out of 350) to be chosen to take part in Authoress's Bakers' Dozen Auction over at Miss Snark's First Victim. Come Monday, 15 agents will be doing the agent equivalent of the Black Friday dash into the Mall of America, nudging each other aside as they bid on the number of pages they want to read from the entrants they most covet. (I' Lucky Number 52, HERE.)

Till then, the rest of us get to comment and critique. I would love to see you there--and I promise that if you have any constructive criticisms I will be delighted. I want this piece to be the strongest it can be.