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The Golden Compass, Ella Enchanted, Catherine Called Birdy, Dealing with Dragons, Wringer, and the Giver. These were some of my favorite books as I was growing up. And they're all Middle Grade.

Until about a month ago, whenever I thought 'Middle Grade Fiction', I thought of dumbed-down, overly-simplistic YA. Boy was I wrong. Strange how growing up makes you forget some stuff about being a kid. Those stories I list above are the same stories that made me think, 'I want to make stuff like this!'

In the past couple weeks I've read a lot of modern MG, and have become completely enamored. I'm not saying it's my niche as a writer, but looking back now I think that writing MG is what I intended to do all along, I just wasn't aware enough to realize it.


This is a quote that really sums up my discoveries on the truth about what MG is: "The author of the true, classic middle grade novel does not worry about vocabulary choices or simple sentence structure; once children are ready for these books they are good readers. Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character. Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world. They are solidifying their own identity, experiencing the physical and psychological changes of puberty, taking on new responsibilities all within the boundaries of their family, friends and neighborhood. Yes, your character needs to grow and change during the course of the book, but these changes are on the inside. Middle grade readers are beginning to learn who they are, what they think. Their books need to mirror their personal experience."

I started working on the steampunk Cinderella before reading some modern MG, and I felt super uncomfortable with it. Was my vocabulary too 'high'? How did MG deal with descriptions? Family issues? Then I read the following:

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
  • 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
  • The Wide-Awake Princess by E. E. Baker
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

These, though mostly Gregor the Overlander, gave me a crash course in MG and what it was all about. If you haven't read Gregor and you're interested in MG, I highly recommend it. It's about a boy trying to keep his sister safe and perhaps reclaim his lost father after tumbling into a world beneath NY through a hole behind his dryer. The themes are family, personal responsibility, and friendship. I think about it every time I want to recapture the 'feel' of MG.

I've also been reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (thanks animewave for the suggestion!) and hoooooly cow is it inspiring. I read with a notebook handy so I can scribble down ideas as I'm going.

Today I thought I'd share some cute steampunk pictures I've run across that also remind me of the 'feel' of the story I'm working on, including some awesome Cinderella-themed ones (click to see all of them!).






So, that's more insight into what I'm thinking about and working on. I'm still working on getting together a full-story summary for Steampunk Cinderella, and will share details as soon as I'm comfortable that it's going to stick.




( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Those pictures are awesome! I love steampunk. Have you ever googled steampunk laptops (so great).
But MG fiction.
I never feel like I can write a point of view from any other age except for the age I am now. Oh sure I once was in middle school, but I don't know if I could get in the head of a middle schooler again. How much do they know? How much do they understand? It is the comprehension of the character that confuses me. Recently I reread the entire Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. In middle school her books were my jam. I still adore her characters and settings and plot and oh I could probably go on about them forever.
I have lost my train of thought.
Anyway, this is really cool!

Jun. 23rd, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
Love the pics! And the idea of a steampunk Cinderella is AMAZING! I'm excited to see what you come up with. I knew nothing about steampunk until about a year ago. Well, that's not entirely true. I just never knew it was called steampunk(Atlantis has still gotta be one of my all time fav movies). I just devoured Incarceron & Leviathan last month and I'm searching for more. Might have to look into Gregor the Overlander...
Jun. 23rd, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Gregor was definitely a great adventure tale, but it's not steampunk. The one I'm really enjoying right now that is steampunk is Mortal Engines. I bought a former library copy for cheap, which I kind of love better than a new book.
Jun. 26th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'm going to jump in here and suggest Kenneth Oppel's Airborn and its sequels if you're interested in Steampunk, it wasn't until years later that I realized it was the first steampunk I'd read.
Jun. 23rd, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
I totally know how you feel. I'm always interested in my own age primarily, but I'm at the awkward point where 'my age' doesn't fit my lifestyle. I'm 22 and I own a house and work as a Manager. Most of my friends from high school are just graduating college. But I feel like writing younger is timeless, because we've all been there.

On the other hand, I totally feel you on 'how much is too much'? It's hard to remember what I knew and didn't at that age, but I'm struggling through regardless :-)
Jun. 23rd, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed THE WIDE AWAKE PRINCESS! I think one of my favorite things about MG is that you can say "I found an entirely new universe hidden behind my sock drawer" and it's ok! :)
Jun. 23rd, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed it too. I liked how all the other fairytales got combined, and not just the popular ones either.
Jun. 24th, 2011 05:21 am (UTC)
Great post

Thank you for information!
Jun. 24th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Great post
:-) No problem
Jun. 24th, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
I love the steampunk pics! I really need to find a copy of Mortal Engines (I bought the sequels awhile ago but I always feel like re-reading the first book in a series lol.) I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Jun. 24th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
It's the last thing I read before I go to bed (which means it's my favorite of the things I'm reading right now, lol). I hope the rest of it is as awesome as the beginning!
Jun. 25th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
Great post, Sav! I looove the pictures.

I don't think THE GOLDEN COMPASS counts as MG, though ;) Lyra is only 12 (11?), but the book is definitely YA. I've never seen it shelved or referred to as MG. It's like ENDER'S GAME, which has a like 6-9 year old protag but is pretty rough and violent, even for YA.
Jun. 25th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
You have a good point about TGC... I think I've seen it on MG shelves though? So I included it in the list :-) It's definitely a crossover...
Jun. 26th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
this just makes me want to go through all the books I've read and make you a list of my favorite MG's although I'm not 100% sure MG was a marketing category when I was younger so I'll just have to guess on some of them.
Jul. 2nd, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
YA is amazing!
Although I am writing a more adult novel right now, my passion is YA. I am working towards being a YA librarian, and I plan to write YA as well. It is such a critical age and there are so many "dumbed-down, overly-simplistic YA" novels out there, that it would be fantastic to be able to influence some of the decisions young adults make when it comes to reading. I would definitely read the book you are birthing. It is exactly the type of story I like to read.

If you haven't had a chance, do pick up Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. It is amazing steampunk YA, with a very strong female lead. He also wrote a great SciFi trilogy that begins with Uglies, that has a great theme.

And if you are looking for more literary YA, you can't go wrong with John Green. I loved an abundance of Katherine's, but his gem is Looking for Alaska. It won a ton of awards, and made the banned books list (so you know it's good):)
Jul. 3rd, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
Re: YA is amazing!
Thank you for the recommendations! And I'm glad to hear this is the type of story you'd like to read... that's my motto as a writer: I write the books I want to read that haven't been written yet. :-)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the NAMELESS series (known as Woman's World and later as Antebellum on Fictionpress). She is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency, trying to sell NAMELESS, and working on her sixth novel. She is also a frequent (and proud!) contributor to Let The Words Flow, a writing blog from former FictionPress writers.

Savannah enjoys coffee with cream, busywork, reading in the car, rainy days, hot wings, the mythos of writing, solving for x, and tortoise-shell cats. Savannah dislikes mysandry, college electives, birthday cake, not remembering the right word, small dogs, the color yellow, and olde english.

Savannah Foley

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