Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Writing a Middle Grade Novel, part 4/Calls for Submissions

The best way to learn to write a middle grade novel is to read a wide assortment of stories by numerous authors. Books that have won awards are a good bet, but don’t overlook those with poor reviews. Read those you enjoy and those that don’t capture your interest. Stephen King advises writers to read books they don’t like to figure out what is not working with the way the story is presented. Books that really grab my attention and hold it to the last word are those that I read twice, first for the entertainment value and second to analyze how the author developed the characters and plot. 

Tackle a story with universal appeal, something that will resonate with a wide range of readers, something that is meaningful to the age group. Lying, bullying, divorce, loss of a parent, suicide, war, or sibling rivalry are subjects that this age group deals with in everyday life. Write a story that reflects real life. 

The middle grade audience enjoys reading about characters that are slightly older than themselves. The characters should be three-dimensional, so real that they practically step off the page. 

Next week, I’ll continue the series. 

Update: Last week, I listed a call for submissions for Turtle Magazine. The magazine is no longer in publication.  

Call for submissions for young writers: 

NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION CONTEST. This environmental journalism competition invites youth between the ages of 13-21 to report on topics related to the environment. Participants submit an article, photo, or video to the competition for a chance to win great prizes, plus national and international recognition. Deadline March 14, 2014. Prizes for the Young Reporters for the Environment USA 2013-2014 competition will be awarded in each media category (writing, photography and video) for each age group (13-15, 16-18, and 19-21). A first, second, and third place winner will be recognized in each category, for a total of 27 awards.
Submission guidelines at

Call for submissions for adult writers:

Brain, Child is the largest literary magazine for mothers. We publish 20-plus essays per month for our print, online and blog publications. Founded in 2000, our mission is to bring the voices of women of different backgrounds and circumstances together on the page, on our website, and on our blog.
We love to read submissions. We are excited by great writing. It makes our day when we hear from an established writer or publish an author for the first time. We believe our writers are the lifeblood of our publication and strive to publicize and promote our writers through our website, Facebook (16,000 fans), and partnerships (e.g. Huffington Post). We respond within six to eight weeks. We offer competitive pay rates. We welcome follow up emails if by chance you do not hear from us.
For all submissions, please email the manuscript in the body of the email to with “Submission” and the department (i.e. “Fiction” “Essay” “Feature Pitch”) as the subject heading. Please don’t send your submission as an attachment.
Submission guidelines at


  1. I am always reading middle-grade books while working on my own. You're right -- it's homework we all need to do as writers.

  2. I'm with you, Rosi. I'm reading some chapter books right now as I write, actually revise, a manuscript. Some mg books I've read recently are Al Capone Does My Shirts and another...Does My Homework, Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, Joey Pigza series, Here Lies the Librarian and Strays Like Us. Those are wonderful books.