The Writer’s Toolkit: Twitter Tags All MG Writers Should Keep in Mind


So you’ve started writing your book, attended a conference and met lots of other writers. You are energetic and inspired. What’s next? What do MG writers do every day other than write or revise that work in progress? Answer: they look at hashtags.

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is a group of twitter posts about the same topic. There are literally hundreds of useful hashtags for writers and potentially an unlimited number since more hashtags are being created every day.

Why do you need to look them? All writers know how important it is to plot, write or revise that work in progress. It’s also important to continue to learn about the craft of writing and the process of getting published. So what is a busy writer to do? You could buy books on writing or research various topics on your own or you could follow certain hashtags on twitter.

Think of hashtags as your continuing education on the subjects of writing, technique, querying, publishing tips, marketing and inspiration.

Many articles about hashtags will give you 10, 40 or 100 options writers should follow, but let’s be real. Time is limited. You need to get back to that work in progress. So, follow the number of hashtags you are likely to look at every day. Try a different combination until you get the top five that works for you. Here is my top five list as a middle grade writer.

#SCBWI- best for the big picture and to remind you of important things like conferences.

#MGLit- best to see what other MG writers are up to, connect, learn, and be inspired. Good references to interviews and blogs.

#Pubtip- best for advice from agents, editors, and writers about what to do and not to do.

#Querytip- best for specific advice about what to put in a query or # Writetip- depending on what stage of the process you are at.

#MSWL- best if you want to search for agent, editors or publishers.

What hashtags do you find most useful?

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Book Launch: Mayday by Karen Harrington

Happy book birthday to Karen Harrington on her latest MG release Mayday. I was lucky to get an ARC of this book which is now one of my all time favorites. Wayne Kovok must face some unusual challenges (a plane crash, facial scaring, lost treasures) in addition to some of the more usual ones (loser father, grumpy grandpa and girl problems). The story is wonderfully written with authentic voice and characters. It’s a perfect MG book that blends heart and humor.



After surviving a plane crash, Wayne has plenty to cope with.

He’s lost his voice from an injury, his face is badly scarred, his drill-sergeant Grandpa has moved in, he’s lost the flag that draped his uncle’s coffin, the only reason his girlfriend hasn’t dumped him is because she’s sorry for him, and his father is an abusive loser. In sum, the white seventh-grader has to find a way to cope with the sudden disintegration of his world. In the past, he’s been a veritable encyclopedia of random trivia, useful for “sealing up the cracks of awkward silences.” Without a voice, the trivia doesn’t work. Friends could help, but he has none until he discovers Denny, who’s facing his bar mitzvah but suffers from a dreadful stutter—except when he sings—and, surprisingly, Grandpa, who, Wayne discovers, is slowly dying of cancer. Grandpa starts out as a near caricature of a ramrod-stiff career military man but gradually emerges to readers through Wayne’s developing understanding as sensitive and deeply in tune with the boy’s struggles. Wayne’s convincing narration perceptively captures the tribulations of young teens, and even though his problems aren’t commonplace, surprisingly, the resolutions are. Perhaps best of these is Grandpa’s advice: “Before you go taking the bull by the horns, make sure it’s your bull.”

A fine character-driven tale that slowly grows to a crescendo of satisfaction.

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Editor’s Insights: An Interview with Naomi Hughes


Editor Naomi Hughes tells us more about “Show, Don’t Tell.


I saw a blog post on Twitter by freelance editor Naomi Hughes where she covered some of the most common problems she sees in manuscripts. It was packed with great advice. I asked Naomi if she could share some of her insights with us.


Naomi Hughes


Middle Grade Mafia: Most writers have heard “Show, don’t tell” but some of us might not realize that we’re “telling” as much as we are. One of the types of “telling” that you highlighted was characterization. Will you explain that and give an example?

Naomi Hughes: Sure! So telling via characterization can be tricky, because a lot of writers think the only way readers can get to know characters is by informing us of their traits. As a result, they drop in tidbits like “Jackie was surly” or “Bob always got to class on time, being a punctual person.” But that’s actually shallow and tell-y characterization—it’s like you telling me “I’m a nice person” versus me spotting you giving your last piece of candy to a lonely little kid at a bus stop. I have to take your word for the first; but with the latter, I can see for myself that you’re nice without you ever having to tell me so. I usually advise writers to find small in-scene moments like that where a character displays a certain trait via an action that shows us what kind of person they are.

MGM: You recommend avoiding filter words. What are filter words and why aren’t they good for the story?

NH: Filter words are tricksy little verbs like “see,” “thought,” “felt,” “heard,” “realized,” etc. They’re bad for your story because they place your POV character between readers and the scene as a middle man—instead of being immersed in the scene and watching it unfold for ourselves, we’re constantly reminded that someone else is doing the seeing and the hearing, and that can distance readers from the story. Plus, filter words are usually pretty boring verbs and don’t really give us any actual information about the scene.

Luckily, this is an easy fix! “I heard the gate unlock” can become “The gate creaked open,” and “She realized she’d forgotten her keys” can turn into “She rummaged through her purse and came up empty—the keys were still on the kitchen counter.” This lets you replace boring, tell-y filter words with much cooler and more evocative verbs that invite your reader into the scene.

MGM: In your experience, what type of telling do you see used most often by new writers?

Continue reading


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MG Book Review: Doodle Adventures – The Search for Slimy Space Slugs! by Mike Lowery

Doodle Adventures by Mike Lowery

The Middle Grade Mafia has read a number of books for our reviews, but none were like Mike Lowery’s Doodle Adventures: The Search for Slimy Space Slugs!

In this fun interactive book, kids have been recruited to help Carl the Duck, who happens to work for a super secret agency, to help find Captain Sleezoog’s space base and retrieve a stolen jar. The adventure requires the reader to draw a variety of objects and scenes as part of the story.

The book states it is a “visual Mad Libs chapter book,” and that is dead on! I went through the book with my eight-year-old son and it was a blast. He enjoyed being creative and I loved hearing what he was drawing and why. This is something kids will be proud to share with family and friends.

If you have a young reader, or a little one that enjoys drawing, this is a must get for the summer vacation. Order a copy today and go get those space slugs!

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The Bertie -Short Story Contest Winners!



The Mafia Family loves everything middle-grade – middle grade books and middle grade authors – so imagine how exLast in the Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyrecited we were to judge a contest by authors in middle school!

The Bertie, a short-story contest for 11-13 year olds, was founded by Mafia member, Lisa Lewis Tyre. The contest was named after Bertie, a grandmother, who is one of the most beloved characters in her book, LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS.

All of the entries were amazing which made judging very difficult, but we managed to reach a consensus. Without further ado, the winners of The Bertie are –

 1st Place:

Beyond Reality, by Brandon Bell ($250.00 dollars)

2nd Place:

Faces on the Ceiling, by Rosie Curtis ($150.00 dollars)

3rd Place:

The Basement, by Maddie Cargile ($100.00 dollars)

Honorable Mention –

Seasonal Rounds, by Noel Vanderbilt ($50.00 dollars)

An Everlasting Promise, by Isobel Worley ($50.00 dollars)

Thank YOU to everyone who entered the contest. It was an honor to read your entertaining stories. Please keep writing and don’t forget to submit next year!

If you are listed above, please email your address where you’d like your check sent to Bertie (at) LisaLewisTyre (dot) com.


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The 2016 Mafia Summer Reading List

With summer right around the corner, the Middle Grade Mafia is proud to present our second annual Summer Reading List. These are just a few books we are excited to pull off the shelf, but not an exclusive list (limiting each person to three is restrictive).

Debbie D’Aurelio

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel

Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel

Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

Kevin Springer

Ollies Odyssey by William Joyce

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce

Red by Liesl Shurtliff

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Kim Zachman

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Arf by Spencer Quinn

Arf by Spencer Quinn

Lisa Lewis Tyre

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne

Maxis Secret by Lynn Plourde

Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde

L.S. Bridgers

Withering by the Sea by Judith Rossell

Withering-by-the-Sea by Judith Rossell

Masterminds Criminal Destiny by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Criminal Destiny by Gordon Korman

The Left Handed Fate by Kate Milford

The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford

Alison Hertz

Smile by Raina Telgeme

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

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Book Release – The Magic Mirror by Susan Hill Long

Happy Book Birthday to Susan Hill Long for her latest release, The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and Pickpocket Squirrel (Knopf).

Magic Mirror coverMaggie is a girl of no account.The good folk of Lesser Dorste all look away, for she’s a foundling cursed with a crutch. She doesn’t even want to look at herself—till the day she’s given a magic mirror. And what she sees in the mirror sends her straightaway on a journey to the royal city.Others, too, are making their way: A monk with a tragic history and a boy with an uncertain future. A princess with a dark secret and a lord with wicked ambitions. A madwoman with a checkered past and a beggar with a flair for the dramatic.

In this twisty-turny tale of mistaken identities, missed connections, and loves lost and found, these wanderers and more will meet Maggie on her journey to heal herself . . . and even her kingdom.

“I love this book, an uproarious, thoughtful, touching, absurd, and altogether splendid adventure about truth, courage, determination, and family. I recommend The Magic Mirror gleefully.” Karen Cushman

To buy this book now, click here!

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MG Book Review: Beetle Boy by M. G. Leonard

Beetle Boy cover

Darkus Cuttle’s dad works at the Natural History Museum in London. One day his father goes into a research room and disappears. The room was locked from the inside and there were no windows. The police are baffled. While authorities try to find his father, Darkus goes to live with his eccentric archaeologist Uncle Max.

His uncle’s next door neighbors Humphrey and Pickering are loud, mean and creepy. Their back yard is a maze of junk and Humphrey’s bedroom is full of unusually large and intelligent beetles. Darkus finds one of the beetles outside and befriends it. In reality, the Rhinocerous beetle befriends Darkus. With the help of his new remarkable pet Baxter and two school friends, Darkus discovers the secret to his missing dad might be connected to those beetles. It seems his father once worked on a secret genetic modification project with another scientist, Lucretia Cutter. She is now a fashion icon, and for some reason, she’s desperate to get those beetles in Humphrey’s room.

I really enjoyed this mystery/adventure with its quirky characters and beetle mania. This story makes beetles seem so fascinating and cool that I want one for a pet too. I especially loved the scientific descriptions and names of all the different kinds of beetles. This is one of the best examples I’ve read of seamlessly blending science into fiction narrative. BEETLE BOY is a great mystery too with a fantastic final buggy battle scene. I can’t wait for the next one in this trilogy. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up. I also think it would make a great addition to a classroom library.

If you’d like to buy it now, click here!

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Agency News – Seeking #MG


Hot off the presses! The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency has a new agent and she is looking for middle grade fiction! Meet Alexandra Weiss –

Alexandra Weiss is a Books Writer for, the PR Manager for a local Chicago circus, and an all-around literary bookworm.  She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Creative Writing and Publishing in 2015.  Previously she’s worked as an Acquisitions Editor for the award-winning anthology Hair Trigger, interned as a publicist for Kaye Publicity, and was a loyal volunteer for Columbia’s annual Story Week: Festival of Writers event for the past four years.  Ever since she was little, her main goal has been to inspire with words, just like the many beloved books and authors have done before her.
Yeah, yeah, but what is she looking for???

Children’s Fiction:  I love all types of adventurous, silly, and out-of-the-box children and middle-grade books.  Books with or without pictures intrigue me, and I’m most interested in a character-driven story and big plot to explore.

Ready to submit? Pay close attention to the submission guidelines as they vary for different agents. Here’s the 411 on how to submit to Alexandra:

Please email a query letter with “Query” in the subject line to  Please send the first twenty pages in the body of the email, along with a one-paragraph bio and one-paragraph synopsis.

From everyone here at the Mafia – good luck!

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MG Book Review: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Review by Laura Raines

In a video interview about The War that Saved My Life, author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley says that she hopes readers won’t be able to put it down, that they’ll be taken up with Ada’s story. She also says that she hopes readers will feel the emotions.

Her hopes are fulfilled! I devoured this book in a day, rooting for Ada all the way. She made me laugh, cry, fear, hope, and gave me a new perspective on WWII.  The best historical fiction isn’t about telling the big stories of battles, strategies and turning points, but about the little stories of real people set within the context of their specific times. The little stories are personal and human, and when truly told, shed light on universal themes like the healing power of love and family.

Along with many children in 1939 London, ten-year-old Ada is evacuated to the English countryside to save her from the Luftwaffe bombing to come. But unlike other children, Ada was not sent by her loving family. Born with a twisted foot that makes walking without pain impossible, Ada has been confined to one room by an abusive mother who considers her an ugly monster. Her healthy, younger brother, Jamie is allowed to roam. The thought of losing Jamie and being left behind with her mother compels Ada to escape with her brother, hobble to the evacuee train, and secure her own freedom. Continue reading

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