Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lack of Middle Grade?

It seems that everywhere I turn, I'm reading blog posts about the huge hole that agents see in good middle grade submissions, that there is an enormous, hungry, beast-like market ready to gobble up anything that a good middle grade writer can churn out.

I definitely do understand how hard middle grade is to write. I wrote a middle grade in between my last two projects. It was the hardest thing I've ever tried to pull off. I'd get going, and I'd write a ton of words, and then I'd read over what I read and I'd say "Dammit Penelope! You just wrote 5K of YA. Super." delete delete delete

The voice is very difficult to nail.

But I am also a tad confused, because if there is a lack of middle grade out there, why is the middle grade section at my local Barnes and Noble at least twice the size of the YA section? Is it simply stuffed to the gills with Harry Potter books? Or are there so many timeless middle grade classics (i.e. Harriet the Spy, anything by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, the Phantom Tollbooth, etc.) that the shelves can stay full without really requiring the production of new material?

Even though I wrote a middle grade, I don't spend a ton of time in that section. My favorite author of all time, Gordon Korman, is solidly middle grade. He wrote a few YA books, some were better than others...A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag and Don't Care High are two notably good YA books he wrote, but his genius is in middle grade, and I pick up anything new that he writes. I also loved When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. The Gregor the Overlander series was very good too, but I found that via The Hunger Games, a YA trilogy.

What I'm getting at is I don't really *browse* the middle grade section. I go get what I'm after, and I don't spend very much time picking through titles, the way I do in the YA section. (Or, if I'm feeling particularly melancholy, the adult fiction section.) So maybe it *IS* full of copies of The Westing Game and Bridge to Terabithia.

What do you think? Do you read middle grade? Has anything spectacular come out lately, or is your middle grade section full of timeless classics? What are you looking for in a hot new middle grade novel?

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