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Tag Archives: middle grade fiction

TBT:The Middle-ish Ages excerpt

Today’s TBT is such for two reasons:  one, I wrote this about five years ago now; and two, this part is fairly close to how it actually happened to me when I was actually in middle school, not just in my fictionalized life as Drew. Here’s an early chapter from my first published book Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages.

School’s Out Forever?

Sixth grade ended with me telling the few people I actually spoke to goodbye. I was going to be in a new school next fall and would never see them again. So long, farewell, good riddance.

Belle and I spent as much time together as possible. We usually ended up at her house, since mine had to look perfect at all times, just in case the realtor called to show it. Every once in a while, the phone would ring, and a few minutes later, my mom became a cyclone, circling the house with a vacuum or worthless, pre-Swifferduster, yelling up the stairs for me to make sure my room was neat, and to hurry up so we could get out of there for a while. This usually meant we would go to a movie, or off to window-shop somewhere. I think my mom even saved certain errands for such occasions. It was easier to just not hang out at home too much, and Belle’s family didn’t mind if I was there. They always welcomed me in with open arms… another daughter almost.

Summer went on like this, and on and on. No bites on the house. It was a gorgeous, spacious home with more land than most places in the area, but homes weren’t selling. My parents were getting restless and their realtor wasn’t working hard enough for them. When my parents got restless with situations, strange events could happen, and their behavior became suspicious. Usually quiet whispering was the sign of something good to come. If it was a quiet whisper on a Saturday morning, we were about to get the world’s best maple doughnuts for breakfast. If there was a suspicious whispering, mixed with quiet moments of exchanged smiles and glances at us kids after finishing dinner, we were in for a trip to the ice cream parlor.

This morning was not a Saturday. It was a Tuesday. Not just any Tuesday. This Tuesday was the last Tuesday before Labor Day, which meant I was about to go back to school with all the people I had bragged to about moving away. I wasn’t thrilled about that. Once the idea of moving had time to settle, I was all for it, with the only regret being leaving Belle behind. I even had an understanding that I would need to move on from Jason and accept that it was not meant to be. But as I staggered down the stairs and shuffled into the kitchen that Tuesday morning, my parents were plotting something. They had smiles on their lips and stopped whispering as soon as they saw me.

I scratched my head and yawned. Mornings were a particularly hard time for me to focus and make sense of my surroundings, and something was not right here. Why were they looking at me like Cheshire cats? “Whaaat?” I questioned in another drawn out yawn, irritated by the situation. I pulled a glass out of the nearest cabinet and a spoon from the drawer below.

“We were thinking about taking a little vacation this weekend. Do you want to come?” my mom asked.

“A vacation? I start school next Tuesday. Where?” I pulled the milk and Hershey’s chocolate syrup out of the refrigerator.

“We just wanted to go out to Virginia and check it out.”

“Uh-huh?” Their blank looks must have been in response to my confused look. I closed the fridge.

“We just want to look into our options.”

“Options for what? Isn’t Virginia on another planet or something?” Thick chocolate fell in a stream into my milk glass. I actually had a fairly educated knowledge of the geography of our country, and we had traveled quite a bit, but I’d never seen the East coast.

“It’s exactly across the United States from here. Anyway, we thought it would be interesting to see what it’s like there.”

“I’m sure it would be interesting, but why now?”

Their looks said it all.

I hope you don’t think I’m moving there!” As the last of my desired chocolate dangled and dripped into my glass, I stirred my milk with rage and large swirls of chocolate were desperate to mix in and avoid further abuse.

“So, you don’t want to come on the trip?” my mom asked, a somewhat hurt tone in her voice. Greeeeaaat… they wanted to uproot me from all things familiar, and I should feel guilty?

I slowly put the milk and chocolate away, halfway closing, halfway slamming the refrigerator door. “I’ll go,” I huffed. “It’s probably like traveling to a foreign country, which I’ve always wanted to do. But I am not moving there!”

“We’ll take a long weekend. We’ll leave Friday and come back Monday evening, so you make it to school on time.” At my father’s response, I trudged back up the stairs with my nearly black chocolate milk. Large chocolate swirls had already begun to comingle at the bottom of the glass. Virginia? Really?

“You might want to think about having some milk with your chocolate,” came the snotty taunt from Angela as we passed on the steps. I wondered if she knew yet, but I really didn’t feel like asking.


My Book Series is Going through Puberty

The May/June issue of Writer’s Digest is dedicated to those who write for children and teens, so I did my ill-coordinated happy dance when it arrived and jumped right in.  According to what I read, I’m right on the mark where I need to be, and since Writer’s Digest says I’m doing well, I’m certain others will soon figure this out about me too, and I’ll become a rich indie author.

Ok, but I am where I need to be, I think.

I felt like my book was homeless when I finished it, which is part of why I decided to forgo all the jumping through hoops in search of an agent who would then search for a publisher.  I figured my story didn’t really fit anywhere well, so it would have to do as I have always done, and non-conform, see who might pick up on it anyway.  But as it turns out, my book does fit as a piece of Middle-Grade literature.  Between that and Young Adult fiction, my story Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages falls into the middle, Middle-Grade that is. Yet somehow most of the readers I know of have been adults, and not necessarily all even female.  I guess I’ve told a timeless, possibly genderless, story. We’ve all gone through the tortures of middle school, right?  Also, I don’t often get feedback from that age group because they don’t really do that. I need to enlist the gatekeepers, their parents, teachers, aunts… My book fills the criteria properly, but I still need to reach them.

But even after checking on my word count and the appropriateness of my characters and content, I felt pleased.  But what of my soon-to-be-released sequel?  My middle schooler protagonist is moving up to high school, my word count is increasing, and some more serious issues will arise, though Drew always tries to keep it light.  So, now my series is moving into the Young Adult world. Will that make it hard to categorize my series? It’s moving from one age group to another.  I guess I hoped my readers could grow along with Drew, but is it an awkward change? Is my book series going through puberty?  Is that even allowed?  J.K. Rowling got away with it as everyone read about Harry and his buddies as they grew up.  This worked well for her, so here’s hoping (I would cross my fingers, but I already type slowly)

I plan to launch my sequel at the end of May.  I’m both excited and want to throw up.  I had no idea what I was doing the first time I self published my book, but now I’ve done a little more research and publicity, though all the free kind. Last time, I put the book on Kindle and then started telling people about it here and there.  This time I’m planning to shout it from as many rooftops (social media) as possible ahead of time, and to enlist my friends and fans to help.

I’m proud of my sequel.  My writing and content have matured and it’s more polished. I also think Drew, my semi-autobiographical protagonist, is a fun, interesting character.  In the same Writer’s Digest issue, I also read an article by Jacquelyn Mitchard on “Standout Series Characters” and I think Drew fits this concept:

“One of the most important characteristics of a character who’ll become part of a teen or a kid’s life for several years has a simple, relatable likability.”

Of course, I also read this gem about the fine balance of writing a sequel, a tedious task:

“One of the most difficult things in the word world is to write the second book in a series.  The challenge for a good writer is finding the balance– appealing to the reader who’s meeting these characters for the first time and making sure the reader who knows the character already isn’t utterly bored.”

I think I got it right, and soon readers will be able to confirm this for me.