How to Get in Front of Middle Grade Readers

When I started writing my first middle grade book my kids were seven and nine – perfect!

 An example:

Me: Can I use a reference to Vanna White in this book?

Son: Who?

Me: That would be a no.

Eventually I got around to selling the series. By this time, my kids were eight and ten. When the first one comes out in July 2017, they will be ten and twelve. When the third one hits the shelves, at least half of them will no longer be my audience.

So then what? Who will make sure I don’t sound like a seriously unhip time traveler from another dimension? Well, there are ways to get in front of middle grade readers even if you don’t have any of your own and they end up being good community builders, too. I’ve got two examples from my own life to share.

Kid/Parent Book Club:

Kids reading! We know they're smiling behind those book jackets.
Kids reading! We know they’re smiling behind those book jackets.

A friend of mine started this club a few years ago for 4th-6th graders. We meet once a month in the evening at the school library. Both the child and a parent read the assigned book and attend the meeting. The discussions are lively and you have to be on your toes to follow them –these kids have opinions and that’s middle grade author gold. Even if you don’t have kids in school, you could volunteer to do this or offer to do it through the public library. An added benefit is I’ve ended up reading a lot of MG titles that I might have otherwised missed.


Kids Creative Writing Club:

These are not my club kids but don't they look like they're really enjoying themselves anyway?
These are not my club kids but they look really happy writing…

There’s very little opportunity to write creativity in the academic setting for this age group, which is a drag because they really like it. I started a creative writing club at my local elementary school for 4th-6th graders. I want them to have the opportunity to write creatively but also I want to peek inside their collective middle grade brains and this seemed a great way to do it. I’m not a teacher or an educator so I hit up a fellow author and MFA for ideas and she gave me a rundown on what would for this age group. Our first lesson was on setting. To start, I had them describe settings from their favorite books and why that setting stuck with them. I was scribbling notes like a crazy person. Sure, this took time I probably don’t have to spare but what I get in return is already paying dividends in my work.

If you want details on either of these programs, give me a shout! or Twitter me or FB me!