Middle-Grade

Happy Pub Day to Ann Dee Ellis and YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER!

Happy Pub Day Ann Dee!

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Have I told you how much I love Ann Dee’s writing? I was a super fan long before we started working together, and now I’m so excited about her latest middle-grade, YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER.

Here’s what people are saying about it:

“When I closed the last page I wanted to jump on Olivia’s tramp, just to celebrate her resounding resilience. This book is a love story for all those kids who have had to grow up way too soon, but who also face life with commitment, fortitude and above all, dedication.”—KATHI APPELT, author of the Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist THE UNDERNEATH

“Olivia’s voice captured me from the first line, but it was her bravery and devotion to her family that kept me reading to the end. The only thing stronger than her imagination is her heart, and my own broke for her as I read. Unforgettable.”—CASSIE BEASLEY, author of the New York Times bestseller CIRCUS MIRANDUS

“I felt like I hit the jackpot when I read this book. Olivia’s story is lively, full of heart, and a must-read for anyone who knows what it feels like to hope and dream big.”—ALLY CONDIE, author of New York Times bestseller MATCHED and SUMMERLOST

“Distinct, colorful, richly imaginative, thoroughly authentic, often hilarious, and frequently heartbreaking…Readers of this memorable novel will feel like winners, too.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Olivia’s first-person narrative fills brief,expressive chapters where she mixes fantasy and real life at will, all in a lyrical, poetic voice. Ellisrealistically taps into the kind of magical thinking so typical of kids trying to solve big problems, andplenty of readers might recognize themselves in the appealingly optimistic, daydreaming Olivia.”—Booklist

For fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Katherine Applegate’s Crenshawcomes the humorous and heart aching story of one girl’s struggle to keep hope alive for her and her younger sister in Sunny Pines Trailer Park.

I highly recommend you order this book immediately. 

You can also find Ann Dee on her website (where she does awesome writer prompts) and twitter.

 

Congrats to Quinn Sosna-Spear on her Debut Deal!

A huge congrats to Quinn Sosna-Spear on her debut deal with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers! Guys this manuscript is so weird and wonderful, I can’t wait for you to read it.

From Publishers Weekly:

SosnaSpear Author PhotoLiz Kossnar at Simon & Schuster has acquired world rights to a debut novel by Quinn Sosna-Spear. Pitched as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets American Gods, The Mortician’s Son follows 12-year-old Walter’s travels in the stolen family hearse, through towns where people dress as fish, worship bees, and dig for living rocks, en route to meet the infamous inventor who mentored his father. Publication is planned for fall 2018; John M. Cusick at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal.

You can find Quinn online @qsosnaspear and quinnsosnaspear.com.

Congrats to Marina Cohen on her new deal!

A huge congrats to INN BETWEEN and THE DOLL’S EYE author Marina Cohen on her latest deal with Roaring Brook Press!

From Publishers Weekly:

MarinaCohen_picEmily Feinberg at Roaring Brook Press has bought world rights to Marina Cohen’s middle-grade fantasy Box of Bones. When 12-year-old Kallie opens a mysterious puzzle box, her life begins to entangle with another world, where Liah, a young bone carver, journeys with her master to sell wares to a Wicked Queen. Publication is scheduled for winter 2019; John M. Cusick of Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal.

Check out Marina Cohen online and on twitter.

Ten Cliches That Make Agents Roll Their Eyes

f3fc3c45fd59bc3cb7fe8ad224519132Great books break these rules all the time. I’ll say it again: great books break these rules ALL THE TIME.

But here are ten cliches agents see so often in queries and samples, they make us go “ugh, not again.”

 

  1. Characters running hands through their hair. This move almost certainly springs from the era of Jonathan Taylor Thomas hair.

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  2. Dead parents. It needs to be said, even though everyone does it, including me. But remember, grief is not a shortcut to character development.

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  3. Redheaded best friends. Poor redheads, always relegated to the position of bestie. Also, why are best friends so often the fun one, while the hero is a stick in the mud? Yes, shyness is relatable, but it’s okay for your main character to be a firecracker, too.

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  4. Alcoholic moms, especially ones that drink boxed wine. Like ‘Busy Dad’, ‘Drunk Mom’ has become a shorthand for suburban ennui and inattentive, embarrassing parenting. Unless your story is truly about substance abuse, try and find a fresh way to signal mom is less-than-perfect.

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  5. Car accidents! If you’re a parent in YA, you’re probably drunk or dead. If you’re a boyfriend, you’re probably two pages away from a horrible car accident. If Kaydan has to go, why not have him get hit by a falling tree, or skateboard into a meat grinder? Get creative!

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  6. Stories that open with characters moving to a new town. I’m not sure why this is such a common set-up, especially in YA and MG, but rather than kickstart the plot, this device can leave agents feeling like they’ve covering the same old territory. (Oops, slipped into “listicle” voice there. Sorry.)

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  7.  / being forced to spend the summer with grandparents / relatives / country bumpkins of any stripe. I think this one originated in romantic comedies, where the too-busy, too-snobby hero is brought down to earth by the love of a simple man. (There are actually quite a few great books that follow this trajectory, but again, agents see it too often.)

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  8. Amnesia. In chapter one. A great story can explore a hero’s rediscovery of her past, and this plot device isn’t an instant turn-off to agents, but if you’re setting out on your first draft, this may not be the best place to start.

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  9. “I bet you’re wondering how I got myself in this situation.” Direct-address to the reader pulls us out of the story and reminds us we’re being narrated to. I think this is something we’ve picked up from movies and t.v., but in novels we’re ALREADY being narrated to, and don’t need reminding. We want to be immersed in your story and identify with your hero, not hear her monologue.

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  10. Heterochromia. This is one of many writer shortcuts for ‘there’s something different / special about her.’ For some reason it’s usually attributed to girls rather than guys, and sometimes suggest the supernatural. Speaking of which, this picture is creepy.

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If you’ve already queried a sample with one or more of these elements, don’t panic. Agents look past this stuff to see what’s truly original about your work. BUT, while there’s nothing wrong with the above in an artistic sense, the best and most enticing writing feels fresh, so in the future, kill these darlings!

Are there any I missed? Add them in the comments!

Happy Pub Day, THE DOLL’S EYE!

Several years ago an author sent me one of the creepiest, delightful, unnerving, exciting stories I’d ever read, and today I’m so excited to see Marina Cohen’s THE DOLL’S EYE hit book shelves! Congratulations, Marina!

Doll's Eye_Cover“An ever present and always-growing sense of dread accompanied by an atmosphere of chills and mystery make this perfect for reading in the closet under the cover of night.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Cohen crafts a pleasingly shivery tale of greed, repercussions, and innocence. A must-have for horror fans.”―School Library Journal

“Cohen makes maximum use of creaking doors and strange shadows to create a delightfully chilling atmosphere, while an unnerving neighbor and whispered rumors heighten the suspense.”―Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

All Hadley wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be—back when she didn’t have to share her mother with her stepfather and stepbrother. Back when she wasn’t forced to live in a musty, decomposing house. Back when she had a life in the city with her friends.

As Hadley whiles away what’s left of her summer, exploring the nearby woods and splitting her time between her strange, bug-obsessed neighbor Gabe and the nice old lady that lives above the garage, she begins to notice the house isn’t just old and creaky. It’s full of secrets, just like appearance of a mysterious dollhouse and the family of perfect dolls she finds.

Oh, how she wishes her family were more like those lovely dolls! Then one day, Hadley discovers a lone glass eye rolling around the floor of the attic. Holding it close one night, she makes a wish that just might change her world forever.

You can order Marina’s super spooky THE INN BETWEEN on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

Check out Marina Cohen online and on twitter.

Congrats to Ann Dee Ellis on her new deal with Dial Books!

From Publishers Weekly:

ann-dee-ellis_picNamrata Tripathi at Dial has bought world English rights to Ann Dee Ellis‘s second middle grade novel, The Wild Place. The story follows 12-year-old Cass, who after reconnecting with her maternal grandmother discovers she is a descendant of Etta Place, mistress of the Sundance Kid, and finds herself on a journey to unearth long-lost outlaw treasure. Publication is set for spring 2019; John M. Cusick of Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal.

Booklist Review of THE DOLL’S EYE

Congrats to Marina Cohen on this awesome review of THE DOLL’S EYE:

Doll's Eye_CoverThe phrase “Be careful what you wish for” takes on ominous significance in this creepy story where wish fulfillment and perfection make for a menacing collaboration. Hadley Jackson, along with her mother, stepfather, and stepbrother, has moved from the city to an old country house that seems to keep losing occupants. Something maliciously magical is brewing, and it emanates from a dollhouse hidden in the attic. The story alternates between Hadley’s perspective and that of the first girl to live in the house, each of whom find that the wishes they make tend to come true—but not as intended. Hadley’s efforts to undo her calamitous wishes lead to an unexpected ending that will surprise readers with its bold, menacing conclusion. Doppelgänger dolls, flesh-eating flies, echoes between realities, and a glass eye contribute to the doomed, gothic undertones of Hadley’s story. As the pieces between past and present fall chillingly into place, they threaten to trap Hadley in a world of her own dreaming. Read this one with the lights on.

— Kara Dean

 

Pre-Order THE DOLL’S EYE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and  Indiebound.

You can order Marina’s super spooky debut middle-grade, THE INN BETWEEN, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

Check out Marina Cohen online and on twitter.

Happy Pub Day to Susie Salom and KYLE FINDS HER WAY!

Happy Pub Day to Susie Salom and KYLE FINDS HER WAY! Must be fate that today is also #DayOfTheGirl. I read a sample of KYLE in an online pitch contest a few years back and immediately fell in love with Kyle’s odd-ball, open-hearted voice. I’m so excited y’all can read this now too!

kyle-finds-her-way-_coverOn the first day of sixth grade, Kyle Constantini lands in the principal’s office after standing up against (that is, punching) Ino Nevarez, who was teasing a deaf girl at school. Her punishment? Join the NAVS program, which teaches constructive problem-solving (that is, not punching).

Kyle loves NAVS, where her team competes in a challenge to navigate a maze. But her parents refuse to let her participate… so Kyle may just have to fudge the truth a bit to get around them. Then her best friend starts to crush on a cute new English boy, who seems to be interested in — Kyle? As the NAVS competition approaches, she has to trust her instincts, take some good advice, and figure out her way through the amazing maze of middle school.

Rich characters, a big heart, and a witty, warm voice make Kyle Finds Her Way a debut worth discovering.

What folks are saying:

[Kyle’s] conflicts with her friends and her parents are well-realized and believable, andher voice has a subtle edge of humor and self-deprecation that enlivens the presentation. Amusing, engaging, and honest, Kyle and her strugglesand successes will be familiar to many middle school girls.” – Kirkus

“In the samevein as R.J. Palacio’s breakout hit Wonder, this charming middle grade debut will strike a chord with readers who enjoy realistic fiction with depth.” – School Library Journal

Get KYLE FINDS HER WAY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Bound, and check it out on Goodreads!

You can find Susie online at twitter.com/susie_salom and susiesalom.com.

Cover Reveal: THE DOLL’S EYE by Marina Cohen

How cool– and creepy– is the cover for Marina Cohen’s next middle-grade, THE DOLL’S EYE?
 
“The day Hadley discovers the lone glass eye in the empty attic of her new house is the day her life changes forever.”
 
Coming February 2017 from Roaring Brook Press!

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You can order Marina’s super spooky THE INN BETWEEN on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

Check out Marina Cohen online and on twitter.