Posts Tagged how-to writing

Perfect Podcasts for Middle-Grade Fans

I am convinced that there is no possible way I will ever be able to consume all the information that’s available to me as an author, reader, and champion of middle-grade literature.  Every day, I add to my “saved” file another article, blog post, Twitter thread, interview, or You Tube video pertaining to topics of interest centering around reading, writing, sharing, and understanding middle-grade fiction and nonfiction. And that doesn’t even include the always-growing list of actual BOOKS I intend to read this week. month. year. before the heat death of the universe.

I also know that my work as an author puts me on the road a lot. I’m not sure why it took me until 2020 to realize that one of the most efficient ways to spend “road hours” might be listening to podcasts. Yes, podcasts. They are still there, despite fact that some people are sure the world has outgrown this audio-only form of information dissemination. I’ve really enjoyed listening to several podcasts recently, so I’m going to share a few below.

(To go the webpage associated with each podcast, just CLICK ON THE PICTURE.)

A podcast about reading and writing middle grade novels utilizing ninja stealth and skill. Rob Kent interviews fellow authors and various publishing professionals to discuss the craft and business of producing middle grade and young adult novels.

Upcoming episodes (subject to change) include:

February 22 – Episode 61 Author Barbara Shoup Returns
February 29 – Episode 62 Author Kaela Noel
March 7 – Episode 63 Author Sayantani DasGupta
March 14 – Episode 64 Author Avi
March 21– Episode 65 Author Mitali Perkins
March 28– Episode 66 Author Anna Meriano

Tune in as Julie Anne Grasso and Pamela Ueckerman chat about middle-grade books – that is, books for primary-aged children or thereabouts… it’s a grey area but who’s counting? What we love, why we love it and who we believe it would suit.If you’re a lover of middle-grade books, a librarian, a parent seeking book recommendations, or perhaps an author wading your way through the world of middle-grade fiction, then Middle Grade Mavens is the podcast for you.

Who doesn’t love great word play?  Literary agent Jennifer Laughran has a website called “Literaticat.”  So, when it came time to name a podcast, what else would she call it but “Literaticast?” That’s some word-bending genius right there, people.

While not solely middle-grade, this podcast covers a wide variety of children’s literature topics and Jennifer frequently interviews amazing middle-grade authors. It’s also a twist to hear it all from the perspective on one of the industry’s top agents.

Hosted by Matthew Winner, elementary school librarian and co-founder of All The Wonders. The Children’s Book Podcast features insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators, and everyone involved in taking a book from drawing board to bookshelf. 

Beyond booklists and author interviews, this podcast takes a deep dive into some very interesting topics in children’s literature. Recent podcasts include Redefining the Boy Hero and Readers’ Thoughts on Reading.

Hosted by Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp, the Yarn aims to tell the inside story of children’s literature. According to the website, there are a few things you should know about The Yarn:

  • The Yarn debuted in August 2015.
  • Travis calls it a podcast, Colby calls it an audio show. They both mean the same thing.
  • All interviews for The Yarn are conducted in person.
  • One definition of “yarn” is “A narrative of adventures” – Travis and Colby like how that sounds.
  • It was all Colby’s idea.

 

These are a few of the podcasts that have captured my attention recently. Can you add to the list of children’s lit podcasts that offer something wonderful to those who read, write, and teach middle-grade literature?  If so, please do in the comments below.

STEM Tuesday Exploration— Writing Craft and Resources

How-To

From how to trouble shoot your printer to how to complete your tax forms, we all use procedural texts every day. Some procedural writing is boring, rigid, and downright miserable. Ugh. But it doesn’t have to be.

Discovering a brand new, fuzzy, four-legged species, exploring a volcano on the barren desert called Mars, escaping quicksand — scientific exploration is full of procedures packed with fun!

You’d think writing down the steps to a process would be easy, but – as any educator who has survived the first week of school knows – teaching “how to” is a bit more challenging than teaching “what.”

You pick: teach someone what the Large Hadron Collider is (a machine for speeding up particles so scientists can study them) or how it works (umm . . .).

See, it can be kind of intimidating. You have to really know what you are talking about. No wonder young (and old) writers struggle. Even writing about something a little easier, like dissecting a roadkill skunk, requires lots of decisions. Hard decisions about who the audience is, what to include, and how to present the information.

Never fear, STEM Tuesday is here.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis month’s book list includes fantastic examples of writing about processes. Consider a multi-step, safety-critical process like blasting off to Mars presented by Pascal Lee in Mission: Mars (page 14). Some of the techniques used include: simplified numbered steps, sequential art, and detail-rich explanations. Lee re-uses these techniques on page 24 for the steps of landing on Mars.

Some questions for close reading:

  • How does the use of numbered steps add to procedural writing?
  • What aspects of page design help the reader?
  • Why might an author repeat techniques in order to explain additional processes in one text?
  • Is the author’s purpose primarily description or exposition? What leads you to that conclusion?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe passages in Mission can be compared with more familiar approaches to procedural writing such as a fun submersible-building activity in Jennifer Swanson’s Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (page 24) and/or a passage on how to pull a leech off your skin in Not for Parents: How to be A World Explorer (page 14).

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing do these authors use?
  • How are illustrations used in these examples?
  • What words, techniques, or signals indicate that these texts are instructional as opposed to descriptive? (For ideas, compare to pages 14 and 24 of Mission: Mars.)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgFor a different take, check out a graphic novel. Starting on page 39 of Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider, author Sara Latta and illustrator Jeff Weigel present their version of how the Large Hadron Collider works (see, it is possible). Their trick for turning the super technical into something readable while avoiding snores? Sequential art, characters who themselves need thorough explanations, and labeled diagrams. Breaking the complex process down into chunked steps, spread over several pages, didn’t hurt either.

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing are found in this text?
  • How does this passage differ from more traditional procedural writing?
  • How does this explanation compare to that of another complex sequence, such as that on page 14 in Mission: Mars.

Try it Yourself

  • Study an example of procedural writing. Identify a technique used by the author. Re-write the passage using a different technique. For example, convert the passage on leech removal into graphic novel form or write it without numbered steps.
  • Re-write a piece of procedural writing with a different point of view. Does that change the impact of the passage?
  • Write the steps for a familiar activity (eating pizza, shooting a basketball, cleaning up dog poop). The first time, write it in 5 steps. Re-write, providing only 3 steps. Re-write again with 10 steps. What’s different? Which was hardest? What audience might need each version? Which do you prefer?

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are WILD about animals. She reads and writes while high in a tree, standing in a stream, or perched on a mountaintop boulder. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at some not-so-ordinary ways STEM skills aid in exploration and expanding our knowledge base.

In addition to generating new knowledge, mind-blowing discoveries, and amazing high tech innovations, exploration can cause damage. One concern: pee and poop. From designing a space suit to handle six-days of pee to turning poop into plastic, people are getting creative to solve this problem.

  • Invisible Universe Revealed: A NOVA episode on the Hubble Telescope, its use in exploring the universe, and how an observation at home became a solution to fix Hubble’s “poor eyesight”.
  • Data Exploration: The digital revolution has allowed massive amounts of information to be collected, stored, and shared. Below are a few examples of how this data allows deeper exploration of the world around us.
    • Sabermetrics: The science and analysis of baseball data has changed the game of baseball forever.
    • Bioinformatics: The accumulation AND sharing of genomic sequences from all types of life have revolutionized life science.
    • FiveThirtyEight.com is a data-driven outlet that studies news, politics, sports, and society. (Their real-time election analysis & discussion is fabulous.)