Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Agent Cortney Radocaj/Author Claire Winn Guest Post + Query Critique & Book Giveaway on 12/1/2021
  • Gemma Cooper Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/13/2021
  • Stacey Kondla Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/15/2021

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Three Tips on Writing Middle Grade Novels by Agent/Author Melissa Nasson and Alex Perry + Pighearted & Query Critique Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Alex Perry and her agent Melissa Nasson here to share a guest post to celebrate the release of Alex’s MG contemporary Pighearted. It sounds like a page turning story that will pull at your heart.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Charlotte's Web meets My Sister's Keeper in this charming story told from the alternating perspectives of a boy with a fatal heart condition and the pig with the heart that could save his life.

Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal. Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.

J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Though he's never left his cell, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah's family, there’s one new title he’s desperate to have: brother.

At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there's more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs—even if their lives depend on it.

Follower News


Before I get to Alex’s and Melissa’s guest post, I have Follower News to share. 

Dr. Susan Berk Koch has a nonfiction MG Chemical Reactions. Here’s a blurb: Chemical Reactions brings chemistry to life with hands-on, science-minded activities and plenty of text-to-world connections that invite kids ages 7 to 12 to discover the wonderful world of chemical reactions! Links: Website: https://susanberkkoch.com/  Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Chemical-Reactions-Science-Projects-Explore/dp/1619309416 Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chemical-reactions-dr-susan-berk-koch/1139977512?ean=9781619309449 Indie bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781619309418

 

Tyrean Martinson has a new science fiction Nexus: The Rayatana, Book 2. Here’s a blurb: Amaya is supposed to bring peace to the galaxy. Which is tough when she’s being held for crimes against the Neutral Zone. Her imprisonment is on her own ship with her own crew. Close quarters create tension. Honestly, her role as the Rayatana is a mess. Links: Website: https://tyreanstales.com/nexus-the-rayatana-book-2/ Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BMHPQ1X Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/nexus-the-rayatana-book-2

 

 

Melissa Nasson and Alex Perry Guest Post on Three Tips for Writing Middle Grade Novels

Remember that kids aren’t your only audience

Alex: If you write middle grade, your readers won’t buy themselves your books. Kids are notoriously broke. Knowing that, I like to keep in mind the professionals who help get my book into children’s hands: librarians and teachers.

Ask yourself how a librarian would recommend your book to a kid. For example, a librarian could recommend Pighearted to a kid who liked soccer, was interested in animals, medicine, science, humor, or struggled with a chronic medical condition. Incorporate a diverse array of ideas that would make your book connect with young readers.

The elements that make for compelling reading also make it easy for a teacher to use the book in class. When I taught sixth grade, I’d want to do lessons on particular literary devices. Unfortunately, sometimes the chapter of the book we were reading didn’t have any strong examples. I kept that in mind during revisions and tried to include opportunities for kids to make inferences, notice every character’s growth, and find loads of literary devices.

Melissa: This is excellent advice. It is so important to think beyond the target reader. Clearly, having Alex as a client makes that process a whole lot easier! Agents also think big-picture about audience, because finding an editor who loves the book is only the first step. Once you have that person who connects and sees a place for the book on their list, the editor usually needs to persuade the rest of their colleagues and higher-ups in editorial. And then they need buy-in from sales and marketing. Aside from the editor, a lot of other publishing professionals need to have a vision for how to position the book to reach those librarians and teachers, who will eventually (finally!) connect the book with that kid who will love it. Thinking beyond just the reader—or just the editor—can give a book the best shot possible.

Keep it interesting

Alex: Most kids don’t read at grade level. This is caused by a wide variety of factors, and means that authors should be aware of trying to make their prose accessible to struggling readers. Maybe they’re learning English or have had some gap in their reading education, but for a lot of these kids reading isn’t enjoyable or relaxing. Illustrated books and graphic novels make things a little easier for them, but using tension and pacing can help no matter what format or genre you’re writing in.

When I taught eighth graders, so many of them said their favorite book was one they’d read in sixth grade: The Outsiders. They loved the characters, the stakes, and tension. It kept their attention. If you write for middle graders you need to draw them in by the end of the first paragraph. Pighearted is an extreme example because my protagonist has a heart attack in the first sentence.

Melissa: I can tell you firsthand that Alex’s writing drew me in from the very first sentence, so she knows what she’s talking about :) Capturing and keeping a reader’s attention is especially critical (and challenging) for young readers, since they have so many forms of entertainment competing for their attention all the time. No matter where or how you begin your story, the reader needs to care about what’s going to happen next. Easier said than done, I know.

Don’t be afraid of complexity

Alex: A student’s reading level has absolutely no bearing on what kinds of concepts they can understand. It sounds weird to say, but when I taught 6th grade every one of my students was brilliant and able to surprise me with their ideas. You don’t need to shy away from emotionally or ethically complex topics to reach a young audience. Kids go through so much and are capable of processing almost anything and books can and should reflect that.

Pighearted asks its readers difficult questions. Is it okay to genetically engineer an animal to serve as an organ donor? Can you kill one intelligent being to save another?

It’s okay to write something complex that gives kids something to think about while not always giving them the answers. We underestimate young readers at our peril. They’re much smarter than we are.

Melissa: I totally agree—I think the best books for young readers are the ones that give them a topic to chew on. This is one of the major reasons I was drawn to Pighearted. And beyond introducing a challenging topic, it’s important to present it in a way that’s respectful of young readers and doesn’t write down to them. As Alex said, kids can handle more than we think. I can’t wait for young readers to encounter the moral and ethical questions—and the wonderful characters, humor, and heart—that Alex has created with Pighearted. I hope it sparks plenty of discussions in homes and classrooms!

 Alex: You can pre-order Pighearted now, it’ll be out October 26th. https://www.lbyr.com/titles/alex-perry/pighearted/9780316538800/

And you can find me online at alexperrybooks.com or on twitter @alextheadequate.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alex and Melissa!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

 Giveaway Details

Alex has generously offered a hardback of Pighearted and Melissa has offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by October 30th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and Canada and the query critique giveaway is International.

 Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

 Monday, October 25th I have an agent spotlight interview with Ginger Clark and a query critique giveaway

 Wednesday, November 3rd I’ve got an agent/author guest post by Steven Chudney and Carley Heath and a query critique and YA fantasy The Reckless Kind Giveaway and my IWSG post

Monday, November 8th I have a guest post by debut author Jessica Speer and a giveaway of her MG nonfiction BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships

Tuesday, November 9th I’m participating in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 15th I have an interview with debut author Terry Catasús Jennings and a giveaway of her chapter book Definitely Dominguita Sherlock Dom

Monday, November 22th I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Chiotti and a query critique giveaway

Monday, November 29nd I have an interview with debut author Nancy McConnell and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Into the Lion’s Mouth

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

 

 

 

47 comments:

  1. Kids are smarter than we think and can grasp concepts and topics. Smart idea to target teachers and librarians. Congratulations, Alex!

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  2. I'm excited to read this unique and intriguing book. I have it marked on my must read list and shared on tumblr for a chance to win a copy of this book. Please do not enter my name for the critique giveaway. https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/665394680800919552/three-tips-on-writing-middle-grade-novels-by

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  3. Sounds like a very interesting premise and really enjoyed the tips. No need to enter me in the critique giveaway. Hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

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  4. You had me with the opening! Very intriguing story! What an interesting situation for both boy and the pig. And plenty to discuss at home and in the classroom. Kids can handle big topics and offer different perspectives. Would love to be a fly on a wall in a classroom discussing this one! Great story!

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  5. This is a fascinating premise and I agree, we shouldn't shy away from complex issues. Kids are insightful and aware.

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  6. What a story. I would have to read it just to see how the author handles such difficult topics.

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  7. Thanks for the great Q&A! I would love to win a query critique.

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  8. I tried to write a story for my kids when they were little. It was soooo hard. They are the toughest critics ever.

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  9. Such an intriguing premise. The cover and story line has me hooked. The information and advice from Alex and Melissa was excellent. I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

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  10. It's very true that reading level and what the reader can handle don't necessarily go together. Kids do understand quite a lot.

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  11. I enjoyed reading these great tips. Looking forward to reading PIGHEARTED!

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  12. I love pigs! Can't wait to read this :)

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  13. Thanks for offering this great giveaway. I would love to have a query critique since I cannot decide which of my writing projects that I want to submit for possible publications. I enjoy your posts. They are very informative.

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    1. Glad you found my blog and find it helpful. I hope you take advantage of the other book and query critique giveaways coming up.

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  14. Really great observations about kids and their reading abilities. Can't wait to read this one! No need for a query critique giveaway.

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  15. I would love to win this book, this query, or both! Looks like a great read, and Melissa seems like a wonderful agent!
    (chayala14@gmail.com)

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  16. Just the description of this book makes me want to cry and hug them both and definitely pick it up asap! Thanks for the chance to win it or the query. Either one would be awesome :) Thanks!

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    1. Also shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kristen70164681/status/1450491690096087042

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  17. Great interview! Thank you! I would love to win a query critique. email: ela.mishne@gmail.com

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  18. Wow. What a mashup, though I suppose when you really think about the comps, they have similar themes. Hits close to home as my son suffered a life-changing injury on the soccer field. Congratulations

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  19. This is an interesting mix...and the tip about adults actually doing the buying is a good one. Congrats!

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  20. I’d be thrilled with either awesome prize! Thanks for another great interview!

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  21. The book sounds fascinating! I would be interested in winning a copy or getting the query critique. Thank you for the opportunity.

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  22. Sounds fantastic. Nice artwork. No critique. Follow on BlogLovin (Life Smartly). positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

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  23. What a wonderful, rich post. Thanks so much for that. I really, really want to read this book! Yes, please, put me in the drawing for the book, but not for the query. Thanks!

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  24. This sounds like such a brilliantly original book—it feels like a few too many books fall into the same clichés, so it's so fun when you see a book and think, "I have never seen that before and probably never will again!" I love the writing tips as well—keeping in mind an audience and not writing "down" to kids are both excellent ideas. I do want to read this book, but I'll let someone else win in both giveaways, so you can leave me out of those. Thanks so much for the great post, Natalie!

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  25. Great post! Kids LOVE books that have so many intriguing ideas in them - this one sounds like a winner!

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  26. Sounds like some very good advice. I hadn't really thought about the ability of a teacher to use a book for examples of things they are teaching!

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  27. Great books here today. I loved this line from Nexus' blurb,"her role as the Rayatana is a mess" and Pighearted caught my heart immediately!

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  28. Great Q&A. Will definitely be looking for the book.

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  29. Would love to read Pighearted! Sounds awesome! and I'm always up for a query critique. Thanks so much for sharing! krista.bearit@gmail.com

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  30. As a teacher myself, I feel like this is brilliant advice. What a great perspective! Yes, I always love that book that I can use as a read aloud, a mentor text for writers workshop, or a go-to book recommendation for independent reading. What an interesting premise for a book and one that will intrigue readers of all ages.

    I would love to read Pighearted and am always in search of a query critique. Many thanks!

    lizhansonbooks@gmail.com

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  31. Pighearted sounds amazing! I can't wait to read it.

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  32. From what I've read the pig will add kidney to that list of contributions! But what an interesting premise!

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  33. Kids are smart and I believe they can better see or discern paranormal activity as their minds have not been subject to a society that denies paranormal activity because science doesn't support it.

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  34. What a great interview!! Pighearted sounds fascinating, and yes, dealing with difficult issues in kids books in an age appropriate way is so critical to helping them think through the world. Thanks Alex and Melissa! I just posted about this interview on Twitter (@morrwriting) and my email is heathercmorris@gmail.com, in case it doesn't show up.

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  35. Thank you for the excellent writing tips! I’m intrigued by Pighearted and I’ll definitely be looking for it!

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  36. I loved your thoughts on keeping librarians and teachers in mind as an audience.

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  37. Yes! As an author who is also a mom I wish more middle grade writers realized how much kids understand in vocabulary and complex ideas.

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  38. This was a stellar interview! Based on my career in elementary education, this author and agent know kids! The story line grabbed me right away, because I've read "Charlotte's Web" aloud to students many times, and I'll never forget "My Sister's Keeper." I absolutely agree that a student's reading level has no bearing on the concepts he or she can understand. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for, and they like topics that give them something to think about. I have to read "Pighearted," even if I'm no longer teaching. I had a third grade gifted and talented art and reading group after school for years. I very well might have read this book with them. Great tips about writing for kids and marketing kids' books.

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  39. Thanks for the great info and good luck on the book launch.

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  40. Helpful interview - finding the balance of introducing complex topics and themes, in a way that honors the intelligence and wisdom of kids. Thank. you!

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  41. What an interesting interview. Sounds like an amazing book and I loved hearing the advice from the author. :) Thanks for sharing and thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    ~Jess

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  42. Pighearted sounds like a book that might make me cry! I still want to read it, tho. What a great premise.

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  43. Great author tips. It's true, kids understand more than their parents know or even fathom and they do it with a quiet grace.

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