I’ve always loved to read. My parents have a picture of me reading a book at age two. I’m sure I wasn’t actually reading at two, but my love of books goes back that far. I was the kid who would stay inside to read instead of going out to play. The outdoors–with weather, bugs and other creatures–couldn’t compare to the worlds I found inside books.
Aside from Nancy Drew, THE BFG and THE BOXCAR CHILDREN, I don’t remember much of what I read until age 11. That’s when I discovered my first romance novel–A KINGDOM OF DREAMS by Judith McNaught. I was hooked. I snagged all the romance novels my mom had in the house and devoured them. When I thought about writing, I always assumed that’s what I would write. But it turns out I’m not a romance novelist. I tried, but it just didn’t work. My one failed romance novel is now buried on my hard drive, and it will never see the light of day again.
Then I had an idea for a middle grade novel. I started writing, reading everything I could online about writing for kids and teens, but I didn’t change my reading habits. It’s not that I hadn’t read any middle grade books; I just hadn’t been paying attention to what was being published in the genre now. What finally got me to do so was the querying process. I wanted to personalize my query letters as much as possible, so I started reading middle grade books my target agents represented. It was a good idea, but I should have done it so much sooner.
I don’t think I can articulate how much I’ve learned about writing for this age from reading. Reading in the genre showed me what I was doing right, what I needed to fix, and what was already out there in the market. I’ve probably read 40-50 middle grade novels in the past year, and it’s been so valuable. Writing that first middle grade novel would have been so much easier I’d started sooner, but that’s what learning’s all about, right?
So, if you’re new to writing middle grade and aren’t already reading it, start now! I’ve added my 2012 reading list as a tab on this blog. I recommend any of the books on this list. I still have quite a few romance novels on there–I can’t give up on my favorite authors–but the balance has shifted, and I’ve added MG authors to my list of favorites.
I’m always looking for new MG books to read. Any recommendations?