The @MG_BookBot Gets A Face (19 of them, in fact!)

If you’ve taken part in any of our hashtag events — October’s #MGBooktober, November’s #MGBOOKBATTLE, and the currently occurring #MGBookmas — then you’re no doubt already familiar with our @MG_BookBot. She’s the real boss around the Village, keeping Annaliese, Kathie, and I on track and in line. If you’re not following her on Twitter, you ought to, as she’s always the first to tweet out Village news, blog posts, and upcoming happenings.

If you are already following the Bot, then you know she has, these past few months, remained faceless. Instead of a headshot, her profile photo has this:

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Recently, teacher extraordinaire Kristen Picone set out to change this. She had a brilliant idea: to have her class, the 5th Grade S.T.A.R.S. (that stands for Students That Are ReaderS), give our Bot a face! Below are the students’ drawings, and because they are all so exceptional, we couldn’t pick just one to be the face of the @MG_BookBot. So, starting today, our Bot will try on ALL the faces, each one for a few days or weeks at a time. This is in keeping with the spirit and mission of our Village — to let EVERY voice have its say and be heard.

Take a look at the kids’ bot art below, and keep an eye on @MG_BookBot’s Twitter profile so you don’t miss any of her many wonderful faces!

— Jarrett

#MGBookmas

The MG Book Village wouldn’t be here at all if not for the smashing success of our hashtags. So what better way to celebrate the recent launch of our site than by starting another one!

Today, December 13th, marks the start of #MGBookmas, a hashtag aimed at celebrating MG books that embody the spirit of the holidays. Our hope is that themes such as family, love, hope, and peace will remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season, and encourage us to focus on the values that matters most. It should also give us all even more books to add to our already-teetering TBR towers!

We hope to see you all out there on Twitter, sharing and discussing your choices for each of the twelve days. Don’t forget to use the #MGBookmas hashtag so other readers can see your tweets and get in on the discussion, too. Questions? Thoughts? Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Merry #MGBookmas!

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Writing a Three—Make that Five—Book Series

Forgotten Shrine High Res

When I found out Simon and Schuster had offered to buy my debut middle grade science fiction adventure series, Bounders, in a three-book deal, I was standing in my kitchen with the afternoon sun streaming through the window. I opened an email from my agent, David Dunton, and there it was: the offer. I promptly screamed and fell to the floor, a reaction that many writers who have spent time in the query trenches and the black hole known as sub can easily understand. My children, though, could not understand. They refused to believe I’d carried on in such a dramatic fashion when I told them about it after school. So, I reenacted it for them, screams and all. Much laughter ensued.

Not long after, the reality of writing a series set in. I’m, what’s called in writing circles, a pantser, best explained by giving it’s opposite, a plotter. I start a book with a big idea, a few characters, a couple of key scenes, and a sense of the world in which the story takes place. That’s about it. One of the things I enjoy most about writing is the magic of going along for the ride with my characters. I like not knowing exactly where we’re headed, being in the dark about what lies around the next corner.

This way of writing isn’t exactly made for series writing. The kinds of series I write require macro and micro plotlines and multi-dimensional character arcs and lots of detailed world building. They require clues planted early on in the story that later reveal themselves as key elements multiple books down the road. They require the resolution of all the questions you’ve raised during the story, and the revisiting of themes and subplots and minor characters who may have exited after Act One.

Fortunately, with Bounders, I’ve had a sense of the macro arc from the beginning. In other words, I know where the story will end and why. I’ve been able to combine my tendency for pantsing with some plot work, primarily by writing to targets, meaning I almost always know what happens at the next major plot point, so I just have to keep writing until I get there. In terms of the overall plot, I think of it as a huge beam floating in the sky—like the classic black and white pictures of guys building skyscrapers years ago—and I keep erecting the scaffolding beneath to anchor it to the ground. That scaffolding is the story twists and the character interactions and the world details that allow both me and my readers to fully inhabit the world that is Bounders.

Early on in working with my first editor, Michael Strother, we started talking about expanding the series to five books. As an author, this was an amazing opportunity. It was also absolutely terrifying. I was only under contract for three books. How could I plan for five when there was no certainty it would go beyond three?

It turns out my pantsing approach made the uncertainty more tolerable. Nothing needed to change about the macro plot arc, the overarching story I’d had in my head from the beginning, I just needed to embrace my existing tendency toward ambiguity even more. Plus, the possibility of five books helped me grow and think critically as a series writer. I came to understand the importance of the stand-alone story, even in a series with an overarching storyline. While I might have gotten away with asking readers to hang on for three books to resolve a single plot arc, it just wasn’t going to work for five books. Each book had to be episodic. They had to drive the macro plot arc, while also telling their own complete stories. Think Harry Potter—the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, the Prisoner of Azkaban, etc.—each a separate story within the greater arc of good versus evil or Harry versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Or, to indulge my classic nerd television aficionados, Mulder and Scully are still sent to investigate the small-town ghost story even though they know the truth is out there about the smoking man and his sister’s alien abduction.

The greatest difficulty for me came when the summer of 2016 rolled around and there was still no certainty as to whether Bounders was going to be a three or five book series. I was staring down a late 2016 deadline for turning in the third book to my editor. To state what I’m sure is an obvious point: there’s a huge difference between a third book that’s smack dab in the middle of a multi-book series versus a third book that’s supposed to wrap everything up.

It was a stressful few months, especially for a pantser. It forced me to put on my plotter hat and loosely map out the two alternatives—one for third book as middle and one for third book as grand finale. That afforded me some security that I’d be able to fast draft the book once I had clarity on the series length.

Luckily, the stars aligned in September when my new editor, Sarah McCabe acquired two additional titles, officially bringing the Bounders series length to five books. I quickly got to work, using my loose outline as a (very loose) guide, and handed in the draft of the third book in December.

Today, that book, The Forgotten Shrine (Bounders 3), is released into the world. I have no doubt that readers will walk away from the book knowing there are more stories to be told about the Bounders. In many ways, my pantsing approach (mixed with a bit more plotting that I may have preferred initially) helped me stay flexible in drafting the three—make that five—book series. And, of course, I’m so excited that I get to write more books about the Bounders! In fact, I’m polishing up the fourth book in the series now. Stay tuned in the coming months for news about the title, cover, and release date for Bounders 4.

Monica Tesler.High Res Headshot

Monica Tesler is the author of the Bounders series, a middle grade science fiction adventure series from Simon and Schuster/Aladdin. She lives outside of Boston with her family. She is on the faculty for the upcoming New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference (Springfield, Massachusetts, April 20-22, 2018) where she’ll teach a class on commercial series writing. She can be found online at monicatesler.com.

Welcome!

Hello there! Thanks for stopping by the MG Book Village!

First off, we want to thank each and every one of you who have been a part of and . I know I speak for Jarrett as well when I say that we are SO grateful to Annaliese for starting this movement, and for allowing us to be a part of it with her. These past two months have seen readers and writers come together to share the MG books that have been important to them, the books that made them laugh and cry, the books that have special meaning in their lives. We want to keep these conversation going.

Annaliese, Jarrett, and I have started this website in order to create a meaningful place to stay connected to the world of MGlit – both the books AND the people that make it what it is. We plan for it to be a place for authors to share their books and what they’re working on, for readers to learn about what’s new and on the horizon and to learn more about their favorite writers. It will, we hope, be a place where each and every one of us – teacher, reader, librarian, author – can share our thoughts and feelings about middle grade literature.

We have several wonderful ideas on which we’re working, but it’s important to us to hear from all of YOU as well. Please feel free to reach out to us using the form on our Contact page and tell us your thoughts and ideas. What would YOU like to see here at the MG Book Village?

We are looking forward to connecting with, sharing with, listening to, and learning from you all.

— Kathie