By Writing Excuses | June 23, 2013 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Middle Grade, Season 8, Uncategorized, YA

Eric Patten joins us for a cast on Middle Grade fiction. His series, The Hunter Chronicles (Return to Exile and The Legend Thief have both been released) is delightful.

As Dan points out, there’s no faster way to start an argument among publishers, editors, and authors than to ask them to define “middle grade.” That said, Brandon’s definition is pretty helpful. Paraphrasing:

Middle Grade books are those which a school librarian gives to a child, rather than the child buying it for him or herself.

Nevertheless, we argue a bit about the fuzzy line between YA and Middle Grade, and we recount where we were getting our books at that age.

Eric talks to us about how he writes Middle Grade, and how it differs from writing YA, specifically with regard to the process of change. We cover some of the escapist elements, and how they differ between the age groups. We also talk about simplifying things without “dumbing them down.” Eric’s Return to Exile comes in at 115,000 words, which is more than twice what most Middle Grade books weigh in at.

Production Trivia: While this was not the last one recorded, this episode is the last one to air from our 2012 mega-session. Back in May of 2012 we recorded forty-plus episodes in the course of five days. Our hope is to never, never do that again…

Episode What Now? (Yes, yes… the number that Mary says at the beginning of this episode is not the one that this episode actually uses. Producer Jordo and byline-writer Howard disagreed on the episode order, and Howard neglected to tell Jordo that he’d made a snap decision while wielding admin access…)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan, narrated by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren

Writing Prompt: Write a Middle Grade book with a four-year-old protagonist.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Middle Grade, Season 8, Uncategorized, YA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

18 Comments

  1. June 23, 2013 @ 4:20 pm


    That really is the best definition ever. I like that you brought up how commonly series transition from middle grade to YA.

    Posted by Simon
  2. June 24, 2013 @ 9:50 am


    I was intrigued by the lack of boy-oriented YA series. Has this always been the case, or is that a recent development?

    Posted by Sam
  3. June 24, 2013 @ 9:59 am


    By the time I reached middle grade, I was already reading the likes of Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov. I wonder if the lack of boy oriented YA is that us boys that cross the middle grade drop off in readership jump straight to the grown up stuff. Or I’m just generalizing using a single data point (myself). Hardly scientific.

    Posted by Talmage
  4. June 24, 2013 @ 10:19 am


    It’s an egg vs. chicken scenario. I’m wondering if that might explain the current trend in readership: more women read, and those that do read more frequently per week than men. (according to the Library & Information Commission 2000)

    Perhaps more boys would survive the drop-off and carry readership into adulthood if there was a smoother transition from MG to Adult fiction.

    Posted by Sam
  5. June 24, 2013 @ 1:54 pm


    The best example I can think of for middle grade is the City of Ember series (I think that fits?). Artemis Fowl also seems like a good example, though it gets a little dark in some spots.

    Posted by Benjamin
  6. June 24, 2013 @ 3:16 pm


    Wonderful definitions. This podcast helped me realize that the YA novel I’ve been working on is really Middle Grade (both in terms of plot and who might be the one to actually get it off a shelf, as it were). Good stuff.

    Posted by J D Tolson
  7. June 24, 2013 @ 5:58 pm


    Yikes! Thanks for the great podcast. Very timely indeed. I’m starting on a new YA/middle grade project and my protagonist is a 13 year-old boy…which sounds like the exact worst choice from what I heard in the podcast.
    Any suggestions on the way to proceed? I thought it was mostly middle grade, but I’m not sure if that is the best way to proceed.

    Aside from changing it to a 14 year old girl protagonist, any suggestions on how to handle this? I’m thinking I might have to plunge into YA.

    Posted by Jesse Cunningham
  8. June 24, 2013 @ 6:38 pm


    You read my mind, this question was driving me nuts. Another fantastic podcast. Thank you.

    Posted by Cas Webb
  9. June 24, 2013 @ 11:23 pm


    The overview of the differences between Young Adult and Middle Grade is interesting. I took two college courses on literature for young people, one was a class on Young Adult literature and the other was a class on Children’s Literature. I hadn’t thought of there being a third in between. I’m not sure if I agree with the definitions laid forth in describing the differences between the genres. I am pretty sure about some things. Middle Grade is for older children and younger teens. Middle Grade marks the in between of Young Adult and Children’s. I don’t think I agree with the notion that Middle Grade is edited for content or a genre a librarian is more likely to recommend because even books for elementary children have been challenged and censored (Bridge to Terabithia would be an example). I think it is still safe to say that there’s a big difference between a book with a target audience for 12-15 years and a book of a target audience of 16-17 years. I think of both MG and YA as YA, though I recognize one is for the younger teen and the other is for the older teen. I also fully understand why youth would be sensitive to the categories of the books they read. For teen boys, they don’t want to be seen as kids, and they worry about what people will think of them reading “kids” books. It might be for that reason that a lot of children’s literature is transitioning to YA categories and so this middle ground has to be found, which is middle grade. It’s interesting.

    Posted by Callie
  10. June 26, 2013 @ 4:30 pm


    Your observation that kids in the Middle Grade age range are looking to “figure things out” is nicely confirmed by roleplaying games. In RPGs (either tabletop or computer) there really ARE rules that the world operates by. And who gets obsessive about them? Middle-school boys.

    Excellent episode! I learned a lot.

    Posted by Cambias
  11. June 26, 2013 @ 10:51 pm


    The overview of the differences between Young Adult and Middle Grade is interesting. I took two college courses on literature for young people, one was a class on Young Adult literature and the other was a class on Children’s Literature. I hadn’t thought of there being a third in between. I’m not sure if I agree with the definitions laid forth in describing the differences between the genres. I am pretty sure about some things. Middle Grade is for older children and younger teens. Middle Grade marks the in between of Young Adult and Children’s. I don’t think I agree with the notion that Middle Grade is edited for content or a genre a librarian is more likely to recommend because even books for elementary children have been challenged and censored (Bridge to Terabithia would be an example). I think it is still safe to say that there’s a big difference between a book with a target audience for 12-15 years and a book of a target audience of 16-17 years. I think of both MG and YA as YA, though I recognize one is for the younger teen and the other is for the older teen. I also fully understand why youth would be sensitive to the categories of the books they read. For teen boys, they don’t want to be seen as kids, and they worry about what people will think of them reading “kids” books. It might be for that reason that a lot of children’s literature is transitioning to YA categories and so this middle ground has to be found, which is middle grade. It’s interesting.

    Posted by Callie
  12. June 27, 2013 @ 8:11 pm


    “Clowns to left of me, jokers to the right, here am I stuck in the middle with you.”

    No, no, no… just audio turning into a transcript!

    http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/75844.html

    Posted by 'nother Mike
  13. June 27, 2013 @ 8:51 pm


    [...] claims to the contrary, they really are that smart — and found their most recent episode, on Middle Grade fiction, to be fascinating. (Defining Middle Grade is contentious, but loosely, it’s fiction for kids [...]

  14. July 1, 2013 @ 2:47 pm


    Is this way they always have a pretty girl on the cover instead of a teen guy on the cover?

    Posted by Sarah
  15. July 1, 2013 @ 3:04 pm


    Thats why, not way.

    Posted by Sarah
  16. July 14, 2013 @ 9:39 am


    I believe, as a 17 year old male, the reason for YA male books being uncommon is that teenager males don’t normally like ‘romance’ or ‘light’ stuff. If you’re gonna have an adventure, then let it be full of monsters and blood and as complex as possible. Most will just stop reading because of the stereotypes (reading is for school, nerds read->cool kids play football), and the few that don’t just turn directly to sci-fi and fantasy, I can’t even think of a middle term that would be interesting to 14 year old boys. Perhaps Adult Novellas or Short Stories would be good since 14/15 year old teens can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of pages. But thematically I don’t see what could possibly feel the gap.

    Posted by Rui
  17. July 24, 2013 @ 7:47 pm


    [...] differences between Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. And the popular tropes of each.  (and here’s a link to Writing Excuses’s podcast on middle grade ficiton, where a lot of my information comes [...]

  18. July 24, 2013 @ 11:04 pm


    [...] of the things that sparked this post was a recent Writing Excuses podcast, Middle Grade with E.J. Patten. The hosts also mention Ender’s Game and the fact the protagonist, Ender, is “underage” [...]