Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Middle Grade Stories: Writing and Reading

on August 6, 2010

One of my great writing “aha” moments happened in June after a critique with Sarah Cloots. She pointed out that a story, I have been working on for a very long time, might be a middle grade novel. Middle grade! Of course! Why hadn’t I seen it? I taught middle school for six years. I love the creativity that I see in middle school and I really enjoyed my own middle school years. Three of my published stories including an audio story with Sniplits, “I Believe,”Hand on the Door” published in Crow Toes Quarterly, and “Hurricanes” published in Summer Shorts are all middle grade. Upper middle grade, but all middle grade! Of course it would be a natural fit to find my writing voice in middle grade.

My manuscript now entitled, Stained Glass Summer, survived years of revision. Each time I thought I was writing young adult. My character waffled between being thirteen and fourteen with the comment from critique partners and editors that she sounded younger…more about age twelve. But, sometimes the surrender is slow, and I kept insisting it was young adult. And although the manuscript came very close to selling a couple times, it never happened.  Why? Because I think I had never accepted the story was middle grade and not young adult. It had never dawned on me that I might be writing middle grade because I assumed that middle grade meant late elementary school years (4th and 5th grade). And sometimes it does. But sometimes writing for middle grade means the characters are up to age 13 and those who are in middle school (6th/7th grade) will be the readers! My favorite age!

Once I revised my now middle grade novel and submitted it, I quickly picked up notes and a half-finished draft for another middle grade novel.  This one is told from a boy point of view.  In order to get into the flow of writing middle grade, I found myself wanting to read middle grade novels.

Cynthia Leitich Smith provided an incredible middle grade reading list.

And I was happily on my way to fast drafting a second middle grade manuscript entitled, Granddad’s Toys.

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