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I’ve just found out that my middle-grade novel, Dancing on the Inside has won honorable mention in the 2013 IndieFab Awards.

Established by Forward Reviews, which is a magazine dedicated to discovering indie books, the IndieFab awards are chosen by a select group of 100 librarians and booksellers. The criteria for judging are…

“…editorial excellence, professional production, originality of the narrative, author credentials relative to the book, and the value the title adds to its genre.”

By “indie books,” Forward means all books not published by the big five. The term includes university presses, privately owned presses, literary presses, and self-publishers.

The winners were then announced on June 27, 2014 at the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference.

This makes the third award for Dancing on the Inside, which is very gratifying

 

Dancing on the Inside

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Foreword/Clarion reviews has just released a 5 out of 5 stars review for my middle-grade novel Dancing on the Inside, calling it

“…an uplifting and insightful novel for tweens and teens”

The review is based on the second edition which is now available and features the Gold Medal on the cover, in honour of the book receiving the Independent Book Publisher’s award.

You can read the full review on Foreword’s website.

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Independent Publishing Book Award

Yesterday, it was announced that my middle-grade novel for girls, Dancing on the Inside has received the Gold Medal in the juvenile fiction category in this year’s Independent Publishing Book Awards contest.

Naturally, I am extremely pleased and honoured. The book tells the story of a young girl who must overcome (or work around) extreme social anxiety in order to pursue her dream of learning to dance ballet. Along the way, she discovers the power of friendship as well as her own unique talent. It is my hope that it will inspire girls to achieve their dreams despite apparent obstacles.

The IPPY contest involved some 2,000 authors competing in 75 categories. You can read the full list of winners at … Independent Publisher Book Awards

 

Dancing on the Inside is available from major retailers such as the following…

As an eBook from  Kindle or Kobo.

In all formats, including paperback, from…

Barnes and Noble

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca (Canada)

Amazon.co.uk (UK)

Chapters-Indigo (Canada)

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I just received the exciting news that my middle-grade novel, Dancing on the Inside has received a Readers View Literary Award in the Canada East regional category.

In addition, in the Specialized Awards category of the same competition, it received the Donna Kakonge Award for the Best Canadian Regional Book.

You can see the complete list of winners of this contest  by visiting… Readers Views Literary Award Winners for 2011.

As always, Dancing on the Insideat is available from major retailers such as the following…

As an eBook from  Kindle or Kobo.

In all formats, including paperback, from…

Barnes and Noble

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca (Canada)

Amazon.co.uk (UK)

Chapters-Indigo (Canada)

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[I wrote the following article as a guest post for a blog tour I did last fall. Enough time has passed that I feel I can now share it in full…]

Children in the preteen years are a fantastic audience to write for. Having graduated from the chapter book stage, they are now ready for real novels. The best readers among them will devour young adult and even adult titles, if given the chance. At the same time, this group has its own unique characteristics and preferences, which you are wise to keep in mind when writing for them.

Consider the Gatekeepers

Middle-grade readers are a group whose reading is still somewhat controlled. The books that make their way into the hands of 9 to 12-year-olds are usually assigned by teachers or chosen by school librarians, parents, and other grown-ups. So in addition to appealing to kids, your book should be something adults will approve of. Obviously, that means no graphic sex, profanity, horror, or violence. Romance, where it exists, will be either implied or age appropriate – think puppy love or modest flirting. Fighting monsters is okay, if it teaches the value of heroism, but lurid details are not.

Adults also prefer children’s books that set good examples. They like main characters who make morally sound choices (at least, when it comes to the crunch) or who learn lessons that will benefit children when they grow up.

Simplify Vocabulary & Style

Bear in mind that not all middle-grade readers are strong readers. Librarians are always looking for stories that the slower readers in this age group can enjoy. So while your story may be longer and more complex than a chapter book, the vocabulary will be simpler than that of adult novels. When you do use difficult words, don’t put too many in one paragraph. Spread them out. Explain what they mean or make it easy for the reader to figure out their meanings from the context. Sentences and paragraphs should be shorter on average too.

Provide A Hero Your Readers Would Love To Be

The best style of narration for this age group is limited third person. You write from the point of view of one character, who is generally the protagonist. This technique lets the reader imagine being in the main character’s shoes. To further encourage readers to identify with this character, it helps if he or she is…

1. Sympathetic

It’s rare to find a middle-grade novel these days with an adult main character. Children like to read about characters who see the world from a perspective similar to their own. They like characters who are their age or perhaps just a few years older (so they can take bigger risks) and who have similar if slightly bigger problems.

Along these lines, make sure your main character has real flaws and problems. Perfect heroes are boring and unrealistic. More importantly, they are harder for the reader to relate to.

Incidentally, a character does not require a contemporary setting to have realistic problems. Middle-grade readers certainly enjoy historical, fantasy, or science fiction novels. But while your main character is fighting dragons, he may also be coping with typical 12-year-old challenges such as how to fit in, how to cope with peer pressure or bullying, how to choose the right friends, how to get approval from the adults in his life, or how to prove himself.

Every child has problems, and every child feels at times as though they are the only person to have their problem. They love to discover through stories that people in other settings can have similar problems and come out all right.

2. Independent

Children on the verge of adolescence are instinctively beginning to pay more attention to the wide world. They want to start making decisions and doing things they couldn’t when they were little. They are imagining what they will do when they are older. So they love books about characters who go on adventures far from adult supervision and who must tackle problems without adult help.

Of course, that’s true of all fiction. The main character in any novel needs to solve his problem or cope with his situation himself. There’s no point if someone else does it for him. The worst thing you can do in a children’s book is have a parent step in and rescue the main character or deliver the solution on a silver platter. For this reason, many great child protagonists are orphans who have no parent to help them (e.g. Anne of Green Gables, Orphan Annie, Harry Potter, Huckleberry Finn, Oliver Twist, etc.).

3. Courageous

By the same token, middle-grade kids are starting to test their boundaries. They are becoming more powerful and discovering that they can get away with things. For this reason, they find stories that involve risk exciting. Breaking the rules, getting into dangerous situations, telling lies, and even behaving badly are ways the main character can explore his growing power. At the same time, the villains in stories demonstrate why rules of behavior are important.

Of course, your main character will have fears. Courage is the ability to act despite fear. For instance, in my novel, Dancing on the Inside, the main character wants to be a dancer, but she suffers from serious social anxiety that makes her afraid of dancing in front of others. What makes her a suitable protagonist is the fact that, despite her fear, she doesn’t give up. She does things that are incredibly brave for her in order to find ways of fulfilling her dream.

4. Admirable

A good main character is someone children would love to be. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he does have to have some great qualities. Maybe he has a special talent that wins him praise or admiration – which can be anything from athletics to zebra-training. Maybe he is smart, strong, funny, or creative. Maybe he stands by his friends or looks after the weak. While a main character does not have to be a nice person on the surface (he could be a pirate, con artist, vampire, etc.), he must have enough redeeming qualities to be a worthy hero. He certainly must be a better person than the villain.

Set Your Imagination Free

Probably my favorite thing about middle-grader readers is that they have not become jaded. They can believe that anything is possible and they love books that stimulate their imaginations. That gives the writer free rein to unleash the same kind of optimism, idealism, and creativity. It’s a wonderful state of mind for reader and author alike.
About this Author

If you have a question about fiction writing or want to discover more of my writing tips, visit http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com

And if you would like to check out my middle-grade novel Dancing on the Inside, just click on the title.

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If you follow indie books, you probably know about The LL Book Review. It began as a forum to help publicize books published by Lulu, one of the first print on demand publishers. Today, it reviews books published by other POD companies or self-published works. With so many people publishing via this route today, it’s valuable to have services like this that can help readers find out about the better indie books.

Recently, Jaime Hypes reviewed Dancing on the Inside for The LL Book Review, and I’m pleased to quote a portion of her review here…

“Strathy not only gives us an inspirational story about fulfilling childhood dreams, but explores the anxiety and fear that can come with that exploration. Jenny not only proves to herself, but to her friends and family as well, that her goals are attainable, even if those goals change along the way. Dancing on the Inside gives us a great story about achieving goals and learning about oneself through hard work, focus, and dedication. It is a refreshingly realistic, simple and relatable story amidst so much fantasy that children are given today. It is a great reminder about the time in our lives that adults often see as simple, is the most difficult when you are going through it.”

You can read the rest of the review, and/or learn about more great indie reads by visiting The LL Book Review. (And of course, you can purchase Dancing on the Inside at major retailers such as the following…

As an eBook from  Kindle or Kobo.

In all formats, including paperback, from…

Barnes and Noble

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca (Canada)

Amazon.co.uk (UK)

Chapters-Indigo (Canada)

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Usually I try to keep track of reviews of my book, Dancing on the Inside. But Ms. Yingling’s review escaped my notice until almost a month after it was posted.

In addition to reviewing children’s books on her blog, Ms. Yingling is a judge for the upcoming Cyblils Awards, which are given to the top children’s books chosen by bloggers (which is how she happened to get a copy of my book).

Ms. Yingling is a tough reviewer with a particular interest in books for boys and (judging from some of the reviews on her blog) historical fiction. So I suppose I should not feel too bad if my contemporary book for girls did not earn her highest praise.

I will say this for her, she is the only one of the Cybils judges so far to have reviewed practically every one of this year’s entries on her blog. And that’s in addition to many other new books featured on her site.

If you’re a children’s librarian or simply looking for a book for a child or young adult, you will appreciate that Ms. Yingling’s reviews are short and too the point. She gives you a brief plot description followed by a sentence or two summerizing her opinion of the book’s strong points and weaknesses.

You’ll find them all at … Ms. Yingling Reads.

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