Monday, August 19, 2013

Let's Get Middle Grade Minded!

*Throws confetti!*

Do you know what today is? 

Don't you remember the excitement? The horror? That white cold feeling of imminent embarrassment?

How will I find all my new classes? What will I wear!?

New friends, new teachers, new clothes!


Everyone has memories of school, good and bad. Remembering those things, those moments of horror and excitement, is one of the best ways to get into the head of a Middle Grader (who in the WORLD would want to do that?… oh, me, that's right)

Middle Grade writers are special (take that word however you'd like ;-) Crazy, yes, but awesome! We here at Middle Grade Minded would like to take you on a journey through the world of Middle Grade Literature. 

Some of the things you can expect here:
  • Posts every Monday and Friday!
  • Critiques
  • Tips and advice
  • Moments of doubt and rage about writing and the publishing process
  • Hopes and dreams (which are sometimes crushed and sometimes achieved in moments of absolute glory)
  • How to get into the head of a Middle Grader
  • Interviews with published authors, agents, and writer hopefuls
  • Giveaways and lots of fun!
Who, you might ask, will be taking us on this Middle Grade journey?

Meet your new Besties (don’t worry, we won't talk about you behind your back) And, to help you get to know us, we've included a fun memory of our Middle School experiences (however long ago they may be).

Rocket Scientist Extraordinaire who writes MG and YA Science Fiction

Jamie's Middle School Memory -
I was always a ball of nerves on the first day of school. What would my teachers be like? What kinds of things would I learn? Would it be hard? But despite all the nerves, the thing I love most about the first day of school - new school supplies. Picking out a backpack, and colored notebooks. I was an organizational freak and back to school supplies was my nerd heaven. A blue notebook for Science, a red one for English, a purple one for Math, and a green one for History. Some brand new pencils and I was set to go. I was always prepared, in fact over prepared. I always had twice as many supplies as required! And no I didn't share because people stole my stuff!

Come back on 8/21 for Jamie's first post and enter to win a query + synopsis critique!

Magicians daughter, stubborn kid and writer of—whatever she feels like writing (aka MG and YA)

Stacey's Middle School Memory -
First day of Middle School ever (6th grade): I walk to the bus stop, all dressed up and cute: black skirt, heels, stockings. The works. Two older guys up the street are already waiting for the bus and see me approaching. "You don't actually dress up for the first day of school, do you? That's so cute!" bahahah.

My eyes grow wide. "Um, NO! This… is just what I wanted to wear."

Apparently it's only cool to dress up for the first day of school in Elementary school.

Lesson learned. 

Come back 8/23 for Stacey's first post and a 3 chapter critique giveaway!

Writer of MG, teacher of children, and filmmaker of just about anything

Brooks' Middle School Memory -
In sixth grade, me and four of my friends began a hip-hop dance crew. We never decided on a name for ourselves, but I'm sure there were plenty of things other kids called us. 

We started out by copying our favorite NKOTB moves and paired them with some of the super-aggressive boxing-style steps of Marky Mark. We eventually graduated to Vanilla Ice and after watching the video for a week straight, we made a pact:

We'd perform for the entire school at the end of the year.

I asked our principal and he OK'ed the plan. The crew began meeting at school in the evenings to practice on the outside basketball court. My dad drove me every Monday and I remember making him turn the truck away from us because I was too embarrassed for him to see me dance (I guess I just assumed he wouldn't look in the rear-view mirrors).

That court became our stage. For weeks we were superstars and in our minds we sold out every show. There was never a single empty spot on the rusted-out bleachers that lined the blacktop and nothing could be heard over the roaring of our imaginary fans. And then, when May finally rolled around--
We totally chickened out.

To this day I wonder what my middle school life would've been like if we had performed. What doors would've opened if we had kept our promise to dance in front of that crowd? Actually it probably would've just landed me in a world full of wedgies and super-noogies back then, but... I can't help but think it totally would have been worth it.

Come back on 8/26 for Brooks's first post and a chance to win a fully customized book trailer for your latest project!

Nerd, gamer, cartoonist, and MG writer. Represented by Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary

Tom's Middle School Memory -
It was sixth grade, during lunch recess. I was playing handball with my good friend Mike at the time in this little brick nook at the back of the school.

So, there we were, innocently smacking a ball around, when who happens to stumble upon us, but my old crush. Mind you, this was a crush for me that lasted ALL through elementary / middle school and into junior high school.

She walks up to us, forcing me to stop playing in fear that I'd look like an idiot. She smiles and looks at me and out of nowhere asks, "Tom, how tall are you?". Now I took this as a normal question. We were friends after all, and didn't expect any hidden agenda. So I told her "Taller than you."

She laughed and said "I don't believe you, let's see." She walks up to me, goes face to face with me and says "Okay, I guess you are taller." Then, without warning. Smack. A kiss right on the lips. TOTALLY OUT OF LEFT FIELD. Mike just looked at me and gasped. She ran off all smiles and went back to her laugh with her friends.

Later that day, it was all Mike and I were talking about over some Nintendo games. SHE ACTUALLY KISSED ME. Strangely enough, we never talked about it or anything. Nothing came of it. No middle grade dating. We were still friends all through high school, but my crush eventually diminished. Still, it was the coolest thing to ever happen to me as a kid with a crush.

Come back on 8/30 for Tom's first post and a giveaway for a drawing of your main character and antagonist!

Certified arborist, avid tree climber, and served time in public education where he taught freshman physical science for three years then school counseled for eight

Robert's Middle School Memory -
My older brother was born a year before me, in the same month. We were close enough in age to play well together - or not. He always liked to win and was very smart and athletic, so he usually beat me whenever we played games. And I, being a competitive brother, hated that.

During the summer of my sixth grade year, we were outside playing Tarzan - taking turns climbing, swinging and jumping out of the crab apple tree in our yard.  When it was his turn, he swung out of the tree and faked an injury. (That was the story I told later, anyway. You see, I might not have been as smart as my brother, but I knew an opportunity when I saw one.)

When he jumped/fell out of the tree, he landed funny and stayed down on his hands and knees for a minute, reaching back for his ankle. That was a BIG mistake. I grabbed all the crab apples I could find and shouted something like “Die you evil ape!” I fired crabapple after crabapple at him, releasing the fury of eleven years of second places out on him. 

While he protested and crawled to the back door, I continued to shout and pepper him mercilessly with the marble sized fruit. Soon, my younger brother joined me in the attack. And with each strike, we negated painful memories of important losses to him. Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, War, Checkers - ah the sweet relief of blasting my helpless brother with crab apples is a fond memory I will take to my grave. 

When my older brother eventually reached the back door and opened it (still on his hands and knees) mom met us, and we knew we were busted. He looked up at her helplessly and I held fruity ammunition, poised to launch, when mom laughed. And I laughed. And my defeated brother crawled inside.

I finally won. I was the king of the jungle that day! 

Come back on 9/2 for Robert's first post and a chance to win a copy of Wonder by R. J. Palacio and a copy of One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia!

Math teacher, professional thumb wrestler, and founding member of Nebraskans for Hufflepuff

Daniel's Middle School Memory -
Mrs. Beery, our Reading and English teacher, assigned a five minute speech on a great hero in American History. Because I loved giving speeches and because I thought I was hilarious, this kind of an assignment was a cake walk for me; and I wanted to spice it up a little.

I was going to turn the standard 'this person was a great hero' speech into something mesmerizing-ly funny. I wrote my speech on note cards, practiced in the bathroom a couple times and when she called on me the next morning, I was ready. I stepped in front of the class, and of course, since I was so good at this kind of stuff, I'm pretty sure they were all expecting white hot brilliance.

And then I started. "Dick Clark is one of the greatest heroes in American History." I looked up, 30 sets of eyeballs glazed over. The panic began almost immediately. You know, Dick Clark, of American Bandstand Fame of Dick Clark's Rock N Eve of TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, the guy who even though he was old, looked unbelievably young. I mean, what a hero to American Men, right? 

You get the problem, not only was this a terrible speech but the eight or nine laugh out loud moments I created in the speech were really "the guy giving this speech is a complete tool" moments.

My body temperature rose significantly, I sweat so much I created a puddle around my feet (hopefully that was sweat), and my voice shook uncontrollably. Mrs. Beery was kind enough to intervene, she told me to sit back down, relax and do the speech later in the period.  

I spent the next twenty minutes in complete fear until finally she called on me again. I went up there and this time I bombed even worse. By the middle of it, tears were leaking from the corners of my eyes and I felt like I was going to be sick.   

For the next year and half, I was terrified of giving speeches, talking in front of the class, or trying to be funny in front of people. That Dick Clark speech proved I was terrible at that sort of thing. Mrs. Beery tried to get me to join the school's speech and drama team but she was out of her mind.  

Finally, the last spring of Junior High, she pulled me aside and told me she had found a couples drama skit, written by Neil Simon that I just had to do and she wouldn't take no for an answer. The good news is, I wouldn't be all by myself, I'd have a partner to lean on.  

I was scared, but I said yes. Michelle and I practiced our play every day, we kept getting better and at the end of the year city wide Speech and Drama Tournament, we finally performed for real.

And we won.

Since that day, I've never again been afraid to talk in front of an audience and I have Mrs. Beery to thank for it.  

And for the record, I've never done another speech on Dick Clark.

Come back on 9/6 for Daniel's first post and a chance to win a big picture critique of half your book or white chocolate sheet cake bars!

We've got some good news. Here at Middle Grade Minded, we don't give homework on the first day (but no promises about those sneaky pop quizzes.) Instead, we give prizes! 

Right here, right now, you can enter out launch giveaway! 

Prizes up for grabs: Books, journals and a cool laptop case!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I'm so glad I found you over on AW. Lots of fun reading here about middle school memories. Most of mine are terrifying.

    1. YAY! We're glad you found us too! I think we all have some scary Middle Grade memories. Thank goodness middle school doesn't last forever!

  2. Neat! Looking forward to reading more.

    1. We are looking forward to sharing more with everyone. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Congratulations!!!
    Since I only "know" Brooks, I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with the rest of the gang. This blog looks like a lot of fun. I can't wait to read more posts in the future. :)


    1. Gah! I forgot to share a middle grade memory. Let's see... which one is less terrifying... Oh yeah, there was this time a baby lizard got inside my uniform and made every girl in my class scream except me. I was lucky I wasn't afraid of lizards. lol

    2. We are looking forward to getting to know you as well!

    3. EEK a lizard? I'm surprised with my luck in middle school nothing like that ever happened to me! I probably would have screamed too!

  4. Congrats on your blog launch! Can't wait to read each week and celebrate all things MG.

  5. What a great blog! Very fun. Looking forward to posts. :)

  6. Regarding middle school memories (or in my case, junior high ;)), one comes to mind due to the level of humiliation. The rage was these tiered, flowing skirts when I was thirteen. One time, I'd failed to notice after a trip to the restroom that the bottom tier had gotten caught underneath the top, exposing my pink polka dot undies. Thank goodness thongs were what you wore on your feet back then! :)

    1. oh my! Thankfully the embarrassment wasn't as bad as it could have been!

      I've fortunately never had that happen but my first day of school freshman year, first hour, my English teacher came into class with her skirt tucked into her panty hose. We spent half the class looking at each other wondering if we should say anything or if she was the kind of teacher who might bite our heads off. Luckily someone finally told her and turns out she was quite embarrassed. Also one of the sweetest people I've ever met.

    2. Ha! 9th grade: My science teacher (an older man, a little creepy even)stood in the front of the class with his fly down once. Someone raised their hand and said "XYZ"
      He was all, calmly, "I don't know what that means."
      "Examine your zipper"
      He looks down. "Oh". Then turns away a sneakily zips it up. bahaha.
      Poor guy.

  7. Very cool! Middle grade is where it's at. Love the middle school memories~ looking forward to more posts!

  8. We agree! Middle Grade is the best! Thanks for stopping by!