Brooklyn Book Festival: Middle Grade Panel

Those of you considering Middle Grade writing (like I sometimes do) will enjoy these highlights from the panel "A Blues for Middle Grade" at the Brooklyn Book Festival.  The authors offered a great introduction to the middle grade audience.  Here are some of my favorite tidbits:

R.J. Palacio (Wonder) had this to say about middle graders:  they are "toddling back and forth between being little kids and believing everything they are told and being a teenager and being skeptical." 

Wendy Mass (The Candymakers) shared middle graders "spend so much time thinking about what others think of you - you forget to figure out who you are."

Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark & Grimm) remembers "how difficult it was to be who you wanted to be."  He could identify what it meant to be cool, but he couldn't control his actions enough to develop into that person.

Sheela Chari (Vanished) said during middle grade "You really start to come up with your own solutions."

R.J. noted that starting "In middle school you get known for stuff."  She discussed how her MC needed to get a new duffel bag before the class trip so he wasn't the kid who liked Star Wars.

Sheela remembered in middle school there were "ways to measure your social value - like the friendship pins on Keds."

Paul, Adam, Wendy, R.J., Sheela

The moderator Paul Acampora (Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face) asked:  Children have such limited experiences - why talk about them?

Adam: Kids want to talk about issues that are serious.  They aren't jaded yet like their parents.  You can address the deepest issues straight up with them. 

Sheela: When things happen, adults look at it through the lens of experience.  Kids are living in the now.  Books can help them figure out what's going on right now. 

R.J.:  Kids share these universal experiences of feeling like an outsider or having kids laughing at you behind your backs.

The questions from the middle graders in the audience were amazing - each child was poised, spoke clearly in the microphone and addressed their question to a particular author.   

A young lady in the audience asked the tough question: why do books always come out hard cover before paperback?  Adam covered the fact that lots of people are involved in the process and those costs have to be recouped.  Wendy added the hard covers are necessary for libraries. 

From this experience I learned to never underestimate the middle grader.  Why do you think it's important to write about middle grade?


  1. Thanks for sharing these gems! The highlights are great at helping me think like a middle grader. I have this strong notion, Laura, that you would be wonderful at writing mid-grade. I am not just saying this. Your humor which shines in your blog is proof. My son would love to read one of your books. He likes your kind of humor and style of writing (not that he's read your blog- I just know what he likes).

    1. Thanks Romelle! I do totally like boogers and bad jokes and other things middle graders like. I got to tell you though, these middle graders are literary geniuses. They know what they are reading and they will tell you what they like about it!

  2. I'm not a middle grade writer, but I sure would've like to have seen this. Great recap!

    1. It was so good. Adam Gidwitz was hilarious! His blog has some of the same funny stories, but his facial expressions when he relates his childhood are killer. He must be great at school visits.


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