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 Happy Wednesday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. We went to lake with friends one day and I got all my flowers planted--something I love doing. And I can't believe it. Anna Li is officially finished with high school. It feels kind of surreal. There's no more making lunches for her and I no longer have to set the alarm since I work at home. I'm loving that.

I want to give you the heads up about next week. I'll be taking a blog break the week of June 1st because I'm having family visit for Anna Li's graduation on Wednesday and am hosting a dinner party the next night. I'll be back on June 8th, but it may take me a bit to get to your blog. I have to go to a 1 1/2 day orientation at University of Michigan with Anna Li. I'll get to your blogs on Monday night or late Tuesday. Then things should get back to normal.

Now onto our guest post. I'm excited to have Elizabeth Varadan here to share about her new MG mystery IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS. It sounds fantastic.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

In Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a day after Imogene's obnoxious step-cousins pay a visit,
her mother's pearls go missing. When Sherlock Holmes is called in, Imogene, harboring a secret desire to become a detective, sees her chance to learn from the great Mr. Holmes.

Here's Elizabeth!

Three ways to Stay Current with Your Readers

Three practices have helped me as an author writing for the eight-to-twelve audience: Reading MG novels, reviewing MG books, and personally connecting with middle graders.

1. Writers are often told to read in the genre they write. This is especially true when writing MG novels. Reading MG lit is a peek into the varied and ever-changing world of that age group. But reading well-written books in your genre provides enhanced understanding of the art and craft of writing for your target readers. These books are the shining examples of what you are aiming for. They can inspire you, when you are searching for that missing element in your own work, and they are clear reminders that rewriting and polishing counts – reminders of why you should never settle for anything less than your best work.

2. I review books for The Children’s Books Review, an award-winning online review site. Reviewing books provides an additional layer of appreciation for the craft. It’s basically one half of the interaction that occurs in a good writing group. In writing groups, we benefit from insights of other readers, but we benefit as much from insights that develop while critiquing their works. Analyzing someone else’s writing to see what works (and what doesn’t) requires an objectivity we lack when revising our own work. When we can identify strengths and weaknesses in another’s writing – in story structure, characterization, theme, imagery, and setting, etc. – we more easily spot strengths and weaknesses in our own writing. Our storytelling improves.

3. The third practice – having personal familiarity with your target readers – can be achieved in many
ways. For years I taught intermediate grades in public school, (an experience which seems to have permanently imbedded that age range in my psyche). When I took early retirement to write full time, I had to find other ways to stay connected. Parents, of course, have that connection at home. But if you aren’t a teacher or parent, or your kids are grown, there are other ways to connect with young people.
I make school visits. School visits aren’t always about your published work. During revisions, I’ve read unfinished books to middle grade classes purely for student input. Teachers welcome opportunities to expose their students to authors, and students love to help you out. After listening to a scene from The Fourth Wish, a sixth grader said, “Mrs. Varadan, we don’t say it like that.” “How do you say it?” I asked. When I came back later and read the same scene, reflecting his input, students nodded their approval. You can’t put something like that in a query letter, I know, but your payoff is in better writing. I’ve been told my ‘kid talk’ in The Fourth Wish is authentic.

When Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls was still in the submission stage, I visited three schools to interview students regarding their feelings about historical fiction. I worried this might be the kind of fiction teachers appreciated more than students. But students in all three classes loved historical fiction – especially historical mysteries. One fifth- grader explained she liked the fact that detectives in the “olden days” (her words) had to use their brain to figure things out instead of relying on technology. (This from the techie generation!) And most of the students in all three classes liked Sherlock Holmes – good news for me, since Sherlock figures strongly in Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls.
There are other ways to connect with young people. Read to children at a library branch. Donate your time in an after school program at a community center. Become a big brother or sister, a Scout den leader. Kids are at their most natural in such settings. If you have a hobby, volunteer to teach it. It’s a refreshing break from sitting hunched over a computer all week, and it’s another way to break a block. (My hobby is art, so I volunteer-teach an art class at a community center once a week. As it turns out, this dovetails nicely with the book reviewing, because I can give them free books when the class ends.)
So – read, review, and connect – three ways to stay in the loop with your target readers.

Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. She taught most elementary grades, but her favorites were the middle grades, and she now writes middle grade fiction. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Her middle grade fantasy, The Fourth Wish, was self-published in 2008. Her new middle grade mystery, Imogene an the Case of the Missing Pearls, will be released by MX Publishing June 15, 2015.

Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls can be pre-ordered

And at Book Depository: 

Author contact information:

Twitter: @4thWishVaradan

Elizabeth has generously offered a copy of IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS to one lucky winner. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 13th. I’ll announce the winner on June 15th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S. residents.

Here's what's coming up:

I'll be off on Monday June 1st to get ready for my daughter's graduation and will be offline all week because I'm having family visiting to help celebrate our happy event.

On Monday, June 8th, I'll have an interview with debut author Sarah McGuire and a giveaway of her MG fantasy VALIANT.

The following Monday I have a guest post with agent Mandy Hubbard and debut author Carolyn Lee Adams and a giveaway of her YA suspense/thriller RUTHLESS. There may also be a query critique giveaway.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post with agent Tina Wexler and Jessica Lawson and a query critique giveaway by Tina Wexler and a giveaway of Jessica's new MG mystery NOOKS AND CRANNIES.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Virginia Boecker and a giveaway of her YA historical fiction THE WITCH HUNTER.

Hope to see you on Monday, June 8th!


Jessica Lawson said...

Great tips, Elizabeth! I've already preordered IMOGENE and can't wait for it to arrive!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, Jessica! I look forward to your books as well. I'm glad you found the tips useful.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Natalie, thanks so much for having me on your blog. This is a blog I read often and always learn from.

Victoria Lindstrom said...

Congratulations, Elizabeth! It was great to learn a bit more about you.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Reviewing books means you are reading even more!
Enjoy your time away, Natalie.

Liz Brooks said...

I hope you have a fun family visit, Natalie! :)
I love the cover for Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, and I love the idea of a book featuring Sherlock Holmes. I'll definitely have to add this one to my reading list. And Elizabeth, I like how you mentioned the benefits of critiquing other people's work--I improved a lot (at least, I hope I did) when I started beta reading for some of my writer friends.

Thanks for sharing!

Liz Brooks said...

Also, I tweeted about the giveaway (@adelethelaptop).

M Pax said...

I want to read this book. Fell in love with the title and can't resist the rest. Congrats, Elizabeth!

Congrats to Anna Li on graduating! It is a huge life transition. Enjoy the celebration!

Stina said...

I can't believe Anna Li has finished high school!!!! *hugs* My kids still have a month left before they start vacation. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. I won't miss having to get them up for school.

I love the first piece of advice. Too often I hear writers claim they don't read the genre they write. This is a huge no no for MG and YA books.

Enjoy your blogging vacation, Natalie!

Ilona Bray said...

The prescription to read MG novels is an easy one to take -- what could be more fun? Looking forward to reading Imogene.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Nice to see Elizabeth featured on Literary Rambles. I am looking forward to reading Imogene. Elizabeth has shared great tips on how MG writers can polish their craft. I have read many of Elizabeth's book reviews, they are brilliant.

Rosi said...

Very nice tips for us. Thanks, Elizabeth. Congratulations, Natalie, to helping your daughter successfully complete her high school education and getting into college. Enjoy your break. No need to put my name in the drawing. I have my copy and love this book.

DMS said...

Congrats to your daughter on finishing high school. It sounds like you will be busy over the next two weeks. Not setting an alarm sounds dreamy. :)

Thanks so much for the giveaway. I heard about this book on Rosi's blog recently and have added it to my list. It was great to learn from the author about the way she stays current within the MG genre. Thanks for sharing. Wishing Elizabeth the best of luck!

Caryn Caldwell said...

Wow! Huge congratulations to Anna Li on finishing high school! I hope she has a wonderful time at college and that the orientation goes well.

IMOGENE AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PEARLS sounds like so much fun! I'm such a sucker for mysteries, and this one seems great. I also loved Elizabeth's suggestions for staying current with a middle-grade audience. So essential!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

And congratulations to your daughter on her graduation. That is such a significant milestone. You must be so proud.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! Happy Graduation to Anna Li!!! I hope you have a wonderful celebration!

I love Elizabeth's suggestions today for staying current with the MG audience and how to connect with that audience through volunteering. :)

Cherie Reich said...

Congratulations, Elizabeth! I'm a sucker for stories that have Sherlock Holmes in it. The book sounds like a lot of fun. Wonderful tips too!

Unknown said...

How wonderful that Elizabeth gets feedback direct from the "horse's mouth" as it were. Tweens definitely have their own language. I really like MG books - they're fun and sweet and aren't angsty like YA - and this one sounds wonderful! Wishing Elizabeth much success! :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations to Anna Li -- and you! My daughter's a couple weeks behind, with prom next week and graduation the week after that. It's surreal, isn't it?

And congratulations to Elizabeth on the release of her new mystery!

Anonymous said...

I love historical mysteries. I like that genre and that added layer of setting. Congrats to Elizabeth. Have a wonderful blog break with your family.

Karen Lange said...

Congratulations to Anna Li! Best wishes for her future. Sounds like a busy and wonderful time for you both.

It's great to meet Elizabeth. I appreciate the insight and tips. Missing Pearls sounds like an interesting read. Wishing her all the best!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie! Hi Elizabeth! I've had some contact with Elizabeth and her writing sounds amazing. Missing Pearls sounds intriguing. I must follow it up. All the best, ladies! :-)

Stephen Tremp said...

it's great to meet Elizabeth! I am finishing up the Percy Jackson series as I'm outlining a book(s) in that genre. Good luck with Missing Pearls.

Crystal Collier said...

Awesome advice. I suggest all the same things when writing for teens.

Carrie Butler said...

So many exciting things! I hope you enjoyed it all. :)