A little-known fact: in college, my scholarship required me to give campus tours to anyone who called the school and wanted to take a look around. I had to memorize a map of the campus as well as facts about each building and other information potential attendees might find interesting.
This means I’m highly qualified as a tour guide. So, today I’d like to take you on a tour of all the features our site has to offer. You can think of this post as a guide to everything you may or may not know about From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors. I’ve even included a map, of sorts.
You may want to grab a chocolate bar and some comfy clothes, because this tour is going to take you awhile. Fair warning.
Alrighty, let’s go!
When you first visit our site, you are met with our homepage, which looks like this:
It’s a thing of beauty. (I’m biased, of course.)
As you may have noticed from the title of this post, we are a blog and a website. We have both blog posts that change our main page almost daily as well as pages and pages of resources that are static (so you won’t ever have to scroll through old posts to find the information on them). Think of us as one of those cool hybrids that everyone wishes they had.
Yeah, that’s us.
The template was chosen and customized by our first webmaster, Wendy Martin. She spent countless hours sending me her favorite themes, and then adding all the bells and whistles once we had decided on one. If you look closely, you’ll notice tiny icons of our original artwork (the MG creature and paperclips in particular) as bullet points for our sidebars and near the date on each post. Also, look closely again and you’ll notice subtle hints of color along the inside edges of the sidebars, with breaks of white to show you where a widget begins and ends. Cool beans.
Now, follow me to the banner.
Let’s take a closer look at all the neat stuff located on our banner:
1. The Blog/Website Title
When we first came together, we brainstormed what to name this blog. Our members came up with over two dozen names, and we voted on our favorites (I remember a few rounds of votes to narrow down the large list). The majority of the group loved From the Mixed-Up Files, but OhMG! was a close second. So, we named the blog our #1 choice, and titled our news sidebar with the #2 pick.
Then we started the same thing over again for a subtitle. In the end, we settled on “…of Middle-Grade Authors” because we couldn’t narrow down a focus for the blog other than the fact that we were all MG authors who wanted to talk about all things middle-grade.
SHORTCUT HELP: If you click on the title, it will take you back to our main page from wherever you are on our site.
2. Our Blog Posts
Down the middle of our main page you’ll find our blog posts. We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and often the other days of the week as well). We work off a rotation system, so each member (all 25-30 of us) gets a turn to post once about every 2-3 months. We often also snag an open day (a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday) when we have something extra to share before our next turn comes around, such as giveaway winner announcements and interview requests we are hoping to squeeze in. We rarely have guests posts because it takes us so long to get through one rotation as it is.
As a quick rundown of what you’ll find further down on the blog posts, under the title you’ll find the date of the post, the author, and the categories the post is listed under (at this time, we aren’t very accurate or disciplined with our category use). At the bottom of the post proper, our authors usually list a short bio, found in italics. Under that, you can find the Share buttons, where you can share the post through various social media outlets. At the very bottom will be the tags the author has attributed to the post, if any, and the comments.
3. Contact Us
Did you know you can click on the envelope and send us an email? We’d love to hear from you. We especially love getting suggestions about book lists you’d love to see on our blog, as well as questions we can answer on the blog for others who may be interested in our reply (we always ask your permission first before posting anything you send).
You can subscribe to our blog by clicking on the subscribe button. Please do subscribe. We have all sorts of awesome things to help you fill your already overflowing inboxes.
5-9. Popular Web Page Tabs
Along the top of the main page you’ll notice some tabs. These are quick links to our most popular static pages. Here’s a little more information about each of the tabs:
5. About Us
The About Us page tells you about who we are, as well as information about how to join, how to donate books, or how to add your book to our monthly new releases post. It also lists other contact information and banners you can use on your own social networking platforms to link back to us. (Thank you to those who share our site with others!)
The BIO BIO: When we started compiling author bios to add to our bio page, which is found inside our About Us page, we thought it would be fun to have a nod to the book, From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in each bio. See if you can find the Mixed-Up references as you learn about our Mixed-Up Authors. You may need to read (or reread) the book to understand some, but that’s okay by us. (NOTE: one or two of our newest members haven’t added a Mixed-Up reference to their bios yet, so don’t look too hard if one or two don’t seem to have one.)
6. Book Lists
This is one of the most popular projects on our site! Our members often post unique book lists as blog posts, and here we compile all of them into easy-to-peruse (but hard-to-define) categories.
TIP: if you know of a book that should be on one of our lists but isn’t, please add it as a comment to the post. In this respect, they become living, changing book lists, which is much cooler than an old, static list.
ANOTHER TIP: The vast majority of our blog posts are also walking bookstores. If you click on the image of a book cover, more often than not it will take you to the book on Indiebound. Our site receives a small percentage of any books purchased this way, so if you’d like to help this blog/website stay in business, please think about purchasing books you click on through our site. Thank you!
7. For Kids
We’ve compiled lots of resources for our 8-12-year-old readers, such as homework tips, original games, and writing ideas. It’s also where you’ll be introduced to M.G., the creature you see on our OhMG! News sidebar. He has found a permanent home here at From the Mixed-Up Files (you can read more info about his creation at stop #12 on this tour).
8. For Parents
Parents, we haven’t forgotten you! Listed in your website pages are resources to help you help your kids. We share ways to kick-start your child’s love of reading, how to create a home library, ways to get involved in reading as a family, and many more.
9. For Teachers/Librarians
The unsung heroes, our teachers and librarians, have now been given a place all their own. On our For Teachers/Librarians pages, we focus on helping them find ways to bring reading into their classrooms and libraries. We have information on school visits, useful blogs and websites, resources for those starting book clubs, and so much more.
10. Original Artwork
Our site is full of original artwork by past members. These adorable file cabinet kids were illustrated by Wendy Martin. She also created the swoosh of books behind the title.
Let’s take a look at the left sidebar next. This is one of my favorite places on the site:
11. Breadcrumb Navigation
Supposedly so named because it shows you the path back to the main page (think Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumbs they left through the forest). If you look at this information, you can see exactly where you are on the site, and if you click on the red hyperlinks, it will take you to that page or post. I’m not sure how often anyone needs this information, but it’s there just in case.
12. OhMG! News
You’ll notice that the vast majority of the left sidebar is dedicated to MG news. We peruse the internet for news about things of importance in the middle-grade world, so you don’t have to. We provide a short blurb with a link to the entire article, blog post, or website where you can read more.
Since we love our news, once our sidebar gets too full, we move our blurbs to the OhMG! News Archives, which you can find here.
NOTE: We also accept submissions for the news sidebar. If you have any news related to middle-grade literature that you’d like to see featured, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a short description and a link to the entire article.
LEGAL-ISH NOTICE: We DO NOT post information about book releases or things of a personal writing or illustrating nature (signing with an agent, selling a book, etc.) on our news sidebar. We are happy to link to MG-focused blogs, share conference info, post articles that address MG topics, or add anything of a significant nature that affects the MG literary or educational industry. We reserve the right to decide if any submission meets our definition of MG news, so we make no guarantees that any submission will be accepted and posted. Also, we do not reply to any submissions sent to this email address, but we do have an auto-reply feature, so you’ll know that your news has been received by us.
CREATURE FEATURE: Our creature, whom we’ve dubbed M.G. (since we couldn’t think of a better name), was originally created and illustrated by Rose Cooper. Her creature was a little, adorable fuzzball with eyes. But M.G. grew a little and metamorphosed into our current M.G., illustrated by Bonnie Adamson.
13. Email Updates
Want to receive updates via email? Scroll clear to the bottom of our left sidebar and enter your email address. Easy peasy.
Let’s take a right turn and head to the other side of the site now. Our right sidebar is so full of goodness that you’ll want to spend plenty of time here.
Since we tend to move things around on this side of the page, I’ve broken this part of the tour into individual widgets instead of the entire column at once. That way I won’t have to recreate the entire right sidebar map each time we change something.
For those who are searching for something specific, you can do so here.
15. What Is Middle-Grade?
As we were preparing to launch From the Mixed-Up Files back in 2010, all of our members decided to contact their middle-grade author friends and ask for a short quote about what makes middle-grade special to them. Some of the most well-beloved middle-grade authors graciously contributed to this nod to what makes MG great.
We’ll keep adding more as well, so we hope you spend some time being inspired by them. Stick around long enough and you’ll be able to read them all. We guarantee you won’t find a better collection of quotes about MG anywhere else.
At least, we don’t think you will.
16. Our Mission
Two of the very first things we spent time debating were what we were going to write about on this website/blog and who were were talking to when we did.
Because we had such a large talent pool (nearly 30 members helped put this site together, and membership has remained steady at 25-30 for most of our time online), we decided we could talk about all aspects of middle-grade literature. We also decided our readership could consist of anyone interested in middle-grade literature as well. There’s room for all here.
And so, our mission statement was born. We keep it in mind as we write our blog posts or update our static pages. And we keep it on our sidebar so that all can see and know our mission, too.
17. Proud Indie Supporter
Our members are huge supporters of independent bookstores. In fact, on the blog each month we post a spotlight of an independent bookstore in the English-speaking world. We highly encourage our readers to support their local indie bookstore by purchasing books through them. You can also purchase online through Indiebound, which will link you to the closest local independent bookstore’s website.
Also, as mentioned at stop #6 of our tour, our site receives a small percentage from all books purchased through Indiebound if you have clicked through from our site. You can support us by purchasing through links you’ll find throughout our blog posts (click on the book cover images to be redirected to Indiebound). Thank you for your support!
18. A Tribute
It seemed appropriate to make a public tribute to the author of our site’s namesake, E.L. Konigsburg. She was alive when this site launched, so we hope that she may have been aware of us and would have approved. It was always our dream to interview her on this blog.
Unfortunately this was never to be. All of us here were deeply saddened when Ms. Konigsburg passed away April 19, 2013. To celebrate her life, a longer tribute was written on our blog by Mixed-Up Author Michele Weber Hurwitz. You can read more about Ms. Konigburg’s life and accomplishments in that tribute here.
19. Tag Cloud
I will be the first to admit that, with 30 of us, we aren’t exactly on top of remembering to create tags for all our posts. But when we do, you can see which ones are used more by which ones are largest in our tag cloud. Enjoy the view!
20. The Files
This is the complete list of all static pages on this website. As you can see, it’s large. Very large. And it gets larger by the year. Most pages are child pages of our main pages, which you can find in the tabs on our banner, but the Files sidebar widget gives you an at-a-glance look at everything we have that isn’t a blog post. As a quick overview of the Files, our main pages are:
About Us (see stop #5 on this tour)
Book Lists (see stop #6 on this tour)
For Kids (see stop #7 on this tour)
For Parents (see stop #8 on this tour)
For Teachers/Librarians (see stop #9 on this tour)
For Writers (these pages list resources for those interested in writing middle-grade literature)
OhMG! News Archives (see stop #12 on this tour)
What Should I Read Next? (this a great list of links to other sites that cater to the MG crowd)
There are a lot of hidden gems in these Files. Trust me. Enjoy the search!
21. Archived Blog Posts
Want to read an old blog post? You can find the complete list of all posts on our site here.
WARNING: As of when this post went live (January 15, 2015), we have 850+ blog posts, and we are adding 20-25 each month. That’s a lotta posts! We are working on ways to make it easier to find just what you’re looking for, but we apologize if you find it hard to locate something. Feel free to send us an email, and we’ll help you in your search. I do it all the time, as a matter of fact. I’m happy to help!
And that concludes our tour of From the Mixed-Up Files! I hope it helped you understand how best to find and use the resources available here, and I hope the stories entertained and enlightened, too. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Elissa Cruz knows more about From the Mixed-Up Files than anyone else on the planet. As leader of the blog, she has had her hands in every aspect–beginning to end, big picture to minute details. The jury is still out on whether or not that has been a good thing. But she’s perfect in her self-imposed role as official Mixed-Up Tour Guide. She is also founder of #MGlitchat on Twitter, and serves as ARA of the Utah/Southern Idaho region of SCBWI. She writes–yep, you guessed it–middle-grade fiction, and is represented by Josh Getzler of HSG Agency.