PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

YOUNG ADULT

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We’re here today to tell you that we are going to be taking a little break over the holidays and partly that’s because there are holidays, and partly it’s to give you a chance to read Buffalo Flats if you want to, before we get to the episodes where there are spoilers.

First chapters have a really tricky job. They introduce readers to a character in their world, they set up what’s going to come after that, and the best ones have forward movement in them. It’s not just a plain description telling you the state of the world. Something’s actually happening in the first chapter. And I would put the first chapter of Buffalo Flats in this best ones category.

Beginnings are so important and they set us up for what’s to come. Even the first sentence creates expectations in a reader for what kind of world they’re entering, who this character is that they’ll be spending time with, and even what themes are gonna be coming up in the story; all in one sentence. And Martine’s opening to Buffalo Flats is masterful.

Danielle Dufayet’s picture books plant seeds in children’s minds and hearts about important topics like self-love, inner strength, patience, and letting go of perfectionism when creating art.

This is a perfect book. I just really wanted to tear it apart, use it to help me figure out how to make my own writing better. I think anyone who wants to write better any type of writing actually and while it will definitely be focused on kids, and this is a YA novel, I think if you want to be a better writer period, there are things to learn from Martine.

I needed to put on my brave girl wings and write what felt right and natural to me, even though I was worried my agent and editor (and readers) might think it was weird. . . . I have always felt a deep, almost spiritual/magical connection with the natural world. I think a lot of people who spend time in nature feel it. That’s what was coming through in my writing.

The Inheritance Games features Avery Grambs, a normal girl who unexpectedly inherits 46 billion dollars. The story has key attributes that engage readers: excessive wealth, a love triangle with hottie brothers, and a twisty mystery. I knew that it was fast-paced, but what exactly did that mean?

A “button” is something that happens at the end of a scene that provides closure, a final touch that seals the deal. It can also be called a “tag” and is a final beat that can be used to close out the scene. Buttons create a satisfying ending that takes the scene just that one more notch. It can add a twist, focus our attention on a particular character or goal or theme, or emphasize an emotion.

In First Rule of Climate Club, Fisher Middle School’s new eighth graders get the opportunity to participate in a science class pilot program devoted to climate change. Firestone tells their story through protagonist Mary Kate’s eyes, but uses a slew of different types of communication that creates room for other points of view.

“My books are all an extension of the activism and community organizing in my life. My teaching was also a reflection of that. I take on political/social realities that I would like to see in the world.” –Carrie Firestone

I want to give you a sense of some things to think about as you approach writing a short story. Let’s look at Rocky Callen’s story “They Call Me Hurricane” from Ab(solutely) Normal to see how she approaches the short story form.

We were both adamant that this collection feature protagonists living with mental health conditions and be written by authors with lived mental health experiences. There are many incredible stories out there that aren’t written from lived experience, but we wanted this anthology’s mere existence to be a testament to how those living with mental health conditions can still chase dreams and lead fulfilling lives.

Simon Sort of Says is my new favorite middle grade novel, a laugh-aloud story about the sole survivor of a mass school shooting. Did I just put the words laugh aloud and school shooting in the same sentence? I did. And I meant it. This isn’t just a book with a kid with a snarky tone. Or a great voice. This is a book that’s so funny I snorted. Humor and warmth are the undercurrent of this book. Simon and his family deal with events with humor. Simon connects with new friends through jokes and laughter. Ultimately, their connections and their ability to keep laughing helps them in the healing process.

Through a combination of humor, culture, warmth and language, Hernandez uses voice to make his characters unforgettable and his novel hard to put down.

Meera Sriram’s picture books are a master class in evocative writing. Her superpower is making her stories feel lush, by providing a sensory and emotional experience that culminates in a satisfying payoff.

Meera Sriram’s picture books take kids to a not so often visited “space”—people, place, experience—to evoke wonder and spark conversations. Sriram feels empowered and hopeful when she thinks about how her stories have the power to influence a child’s worldview.

Novels are amalgams. Your experiences. Your friends’ memories. Stuff you’ve read. Stuff you’ve heard about. Be open to it all. Mash up the different elements. The real secret of the secret sauce of novel-writing is that no one knows what goes into it.

Martha Brockenbrough’s chapter book Frank and the Masked Cat is objectively hilarious. By using situational humor, weird words, the juxtaposition of familiar words with unfamiliar uses, repetition, and multiple strategies at the same time Brockenbrough gives readers many layers of witty comedy.

interview by Erin Nuttall The thing I love most about Martha Brockenbrough’s writing is that she is unafraid. Yes, she’s imaginative, funny, thoughtful, and precise which all make her stories a joy to read, but to write bravely is a skill that few have and put Martha’s work on another plane. She slides easily between […]

Patterns can help shape a story, from the big-picture themes to the moment-by-moment actions. Giving kids the opportunity to “read” the patterns gives them practice in making meaning. And it gives them satisfaction in reading as well.

“I focused on just his family members because I realized that I wanted to weave together themes of food and family, in particular the father-and-son relationship. Food has always been a very important part of my family, both when I was growing up and now that I have my own family. My mom liked to cook and it was her way of showing her love for us. Similarly, I like to cook my husband’s or son’s favorite dishes and/or add in favorite ingredients here and there, just because I want to show them I “see” them and I love them.”

A novel requires more than just one main plot. In this episode, we look at three major subplots in Buffalo Flats by Martine Leavitt, one that involves Rebecca’s family, one that involves her local community, and one that involves the larger community. We look at how Martine weaves in these subplots and how she makes […]

In this mini-episode, we switch things up! Anne-Marie defines what a misbelief is, how it connects your character’s internal and external journey, and we see the concepts in action in Martine Leavitt’s YA novel, Buffalo Flats. Links: KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats Writing exercises to explore a character’s misbelief Misbelief in Paul Acampora’s […]

Martine Leavitt’s YA novel Buffalo Flats is full of desire. In addition to wanting to own a piece of land, the main character, Rebecca, also wants to become the person God wants her to be, and that means loving other people, most of whom she finds annoying or unlovable. Erin walks through how the desire […]

Martine Leavitt’s YA novel Buffalo Flats is full of desire. The main character, Rebecca Leavitt, wants more than anything to own a piece of land near where her family is homesteading in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Erin traces how Martine introduces the external desire right from the start, where Rebecca runs into obstacles, and […]

We’re three episodes in, and we’re taking a holiday break! Anne-Marie and Erin share how life is in podcast land and encourage you to read Buffalo Flats during the break. Starting in Episode 4 there will be spoilers. But the book is so rich that even if you listen first, you’ll have wonderful moments of […]