Rob Kent interviews fellow authors, editors, literary agents, and other publishing professionals to discuss the craft and business of producing middle grade and young adult novels. New episode every Saturday. MiddleGradeNinja.com.
Rob Kent is the author of BANNEKER BONES AND THE GIANT ROBOT BEES . He runs the popular blog for writers, Middle Grade Ninja, which features interviews and guest posts from authors, literary agents, and other publishing professionals. He also hosts the Middle Grade Ninja Podcast.
Rob Kent holds degrees in Literature and Creative Writing from Indiana University and owns over 900 Batman action figures. He lives with his family in Indianapolis where he teaches courses at the Indiana Writers Center and is hard at work on his next book.
Under the super secret pen name Robert Kent, he writes novels for older readers such as ALL TOGETHER NOW: A ZOMBIE STORY and THE BOOK OF DAVID.
138 Author Sarah J. Schmitt
My friend, Sarah J. Schmitt, and I discuss her path to publishing IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH her newest novel, WHERE THERE’S A WHISK, and why you should never give anyone else power over your art. She shares how she found her editor on Twitter, how she secured her literary agent, and how she survived the collapse of her publisher. We also chat about author income fluctuations due to the pandemic, discussing hybrid publishing with your literary agent, writing fast first drafts, being active in the local writing community, telling a story from outside your own perspective, WATERSHIP DOWN, visions of the afterlife, and so much more.
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.
Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer's Workshop.
137 Author Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman and I discuss her career from a journalist for SEVENTEEN to a celebrated YA novelist and the launch of her first MG book, FRANKIE AND BUG. She describes the experience of having IF I STAY adapted into a film and tells an excellent ghost story. We chat about WE ARE INEVITABLE, writing to get out of poverty, how there is no promised land for writers, playlists created for her novels, her writing process, life during the pandemic, dealing with anxiety, and more. Oh, and she mentions living within a five-block radius of authors Libba Bray, R.J. Palacio, E. Lockhart, and Jacqueline Woodson.
Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman has written several bestselling novels for young adults, including the Just One Series, I Was Here, Where She Went and the #1 New York Times bestseller If I Stay, which has been translated into more than 40 languages and in 2014 was adapted into a major motion picture. Gayle published Leave Me, her first novel starring adults, in 2016 and her latest novel I Have Lost My Way was released in March of 2018. Gayle’s essays and nonfiction work has appeared in publications like The New York Times, Elle, The Nation and Time. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughters.
136 Author Katherine Paterson
Two-time Newberry Award winner and one of my childhood heroes, Katherine Patterson, and I discuss how she transformed from a “mediocre writer” to a Living Legend (so designated by the Library of Congress in 2000). We chat about her newest novel, BIRDIE’S BARGAIN, how Hollywood demanded a sequel to BRIDGE TO TERABETHIA, the time she kissed Robert Patrick, the importance of maintaining the feeling of childhood injustice, writing sparse descriptions, the mysteries of inspiration, the influence of THE YEARLING, the nature of God, and so, so much more, and we have a whole lot of fun doing it.
Katherine Paterson is the author of more than 30 books, including 17 novels for children and young people. She has won the Newbery Medal twice, for Bridge to Terabithia in 1978 and Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. Her book The Master Puppeteer won the National Book Award in 1977; The Great Gilly Hopkins won the National Book Award in 1979 and was also a Newbery Honor Book. For the body of her work she received the Hans Christian Anderson Medal in 1998, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006, the NSK Neustadt Award in 2007, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (Children's Literature Legacy Award) in 2013, and the E. B. White Award in 2019. In 2000 she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. Paterson is a vice-president of the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance and is a member of the board of trustees for Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Montpelier, Vermont with her dog, Pixie.
The audio from each episode is available as the Middle Grade Ninja Podcast on Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify, itunes, Podbean, Podblaster, RadioPublic, blubrry, Listen Notes, Google Play, and many other fine locations.
135 Author Rajani LaRocca
Rajani LaRocca and I discuss the importance of finding a community of writers and how that led her to publication, as well as her newest novel, MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL. We talk about the “slight fairytale” that led her to finding her literary agent, her time as a pitch wars mentor, plantsing, coordinating publicity and school visits (even during a pandemic), her Stem Women in KidLit podcast, the value of an author’s time, how doctoring makes her a better writer, and so much more.
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she spends her time writing novels and picture books, practicing medicine, and baking too many sweet treats. She is also the cohost of the STEM Women in KidLit Podcast. Her middle grade debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books), an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking, was an Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book of 2019, and a 2020 Massachusetts Book Award Honor title. Her middle grade novel-in-verse, Red, White, and Whole (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, 2/201), has received multiple starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and a Spring 2021 Indie Next Top Ten Title. Her third middle grade novel, Much Ado About Baseball (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books) will publish in June 2021 and is Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Her debut picture book, Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math (Lee & Low, 2020) is set in ancient India and introduces the basics of binary numbers. It received multiple starred reviews and is the winner of the 2021 Mathical Book Prize for grades 3-5. She is also the author of the forthcoming picture books Bracelets For Brothers (Charlesbridge, April 2021), Where Three Oceans Meet (Abrams, 2021), The Secret Code Inside You (Little Bee Books, September 2021), I’ll Go and Come Back (Candlewick, 2022), Masala Chai, Fast and Slow (Candlewick, 2023), and more. Learn more about her at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and on Twitter and Instagram @rajanilarocca.
134 Author Jessica Vitalis
Jessica Vitalis and I chat about her debut novel, THE WOLF’S CURSE. And we have a detailed discussion about the six-figure, two-book deal her agent, Sara Crowe, negotiated for her. We also talk about how Erin Entrada Kelley fell in love with Jessica’s book and helped her secure that vital representation. And we chat about the time Jessica was visited by a ghost, how to write an omniscient narrator, researching to help with fantasy worldbuilding, and a lot of other great stuff you’re going to love hearing about.
Jessica Vitalis is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer specializing in middle grade literature. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. She loves traveling, sailing, and scuba diving, but when she's at home she can usually be found recording book talks for Magic in the Middle and changing the batteries in her heated socks. Her debut novel, The Wolf's Curse, will be published September 21, 2021 by Greenwillow/HarperCollins with a second book to follow.
133 Literary Agent Becky LeJune
Becky LeJeune and I chat about how she went from being a criminal justice major while working in a Walden Books to an editor and now a literary agent with the Bond Literary Agency. We talk about how she evaluates manuscripts, why you don’t want to convince an agent to represent a genre they’re not currently selling in, advice about finding comp titles, asking why the author is the best person to tell a particular story, our mutual love for horror and haunted houses, the type of writer behavior that might scare an agent, and so, so much more in a far-ranging discussion stuffed with valuable information.
Becky LeJeune met Sandra Bond at the Denver Publishing Institute when she was a student there in 2007. After DPI, she spent 2 years working as the managing editor for a cookbook imprint, and then 5 years as an acquisitions editor at The History Press before joining Sandra at BLA in 2014. She is interested in adult and teen general fiction, horror, mystery/thriller, historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and cookbooks.
Becky is open to queries through: https://querymanager.com/becky_lejeune
The Wisdom needed to succeed
Greetings from Nashville, TN! This podcast has kept me company many times while commuting to and from my J.O.B. Someday I will not have to bother with a commute as I plan on becoming a full-time author. But I'll STILL listen to this podcast! It's good stuff, and I need all the insight I can get!
Fellow Hoosier listening from Terre Haute! I recently discovered your podcast and as a writer, I have been binging your very helpful show. I particularly enjoy the literary agent interviews because that’s the stage I’m at, but each episode is packed with inspiration and paving stones for the path I am on! Thanks!
I’ve hungrily consumed all of Rob’s episodes and can’t wait till the next one drops. For aspiring writers of any genre, this podcast is gold. It brings literary agents, editors, and best-selling authors right into your living room. They are right there, having coffee with you, providing an absolute wealth of knowledge, anecdotes, and advice. A definite must for anyone dreaming of, and working towards, a career as a writer.