Mastering the Middle Grade Spring 2018 Intensive

Event Type:
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Sunday, May 20, 2018

Times: Begins at 5:00pm on Thursday, ends at 10:30 am on Sunday
$925 lodging, $725 local

Author Lamar Giles & Editor/VP and Co-Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers Phoebe Yeh

Class Size:

Most of us can remember at least one middle grade novel that made an indelible mark on us and helped shape us into who we are today. These books aimed at 4th-7th grade are what made many of us lifelong readers—and writers! Over four days, faculty will lecture and lead group workshops with exercises, designed to improve your writing and get you thinking about Middle Grade in a whole new way.

Lectures to Look Forward To…

My Voice is Cracking: An Adult’s Guide to Writing for the Middle Grade Audience with Lamar Giles

With every genre, creating a consistent voice is a challenge but when it comes to middle grade—late elementary and tween readers can spot where your “voice is cracking” a mile away. So how as adults do we create authentic characters and voice for our middle grade works-in-progress?

Lamar Giles will walk us through the many things we need to consider as writers of middle grade, like word choice and cadence, all while balancing plot and pacing to keep a reader’s interest high. We will look at the successful works from the modern masters of middle grade voice such as R.J. Palacio, Kelly Barnhill, and Jason Reynolds, then apply the craft knowledge we gain to help you create convincing and consistent childlike voices for your middle-grade stories.

The session will include a presentation, writing exercises, and a Q&A.

Why Voice Matters: Insights from Editor and Publisher Phoebe Yeh

Oftentimes, voice is the first thing that grabs the attention of a reader.  And an acquiring editor.  What do we mean by “voice?”  What does voice have to do with creating a memorable character?  How can you tell if the voice is authentic for middle grade readers?  If the character is diverse, how can you tell if the voice is authentic?  Your voice should be pitch perfect and word perfect.

Phoebe Yeh will share her many do’s and don’ts for finding the right voice for your middle grade novel.  Together we will consider voice in writings by Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Rita Williams Garcia and newer short story author, Kelly J. Baptist.

Session includes presentation, writing exercises and Q&A, plus, how Phoebe and Lamar work together on voice in his writings for young people. An indispensable how-to-peak behind the publishing curtain.


Lamar Giles is an author, speaker, and founding member of We Need Diverse Books (, a non-profit dedicated to changing the face of publishing. His love of stories and storytelling began at an early age in his hometown of Hopewell, Virginia. After graduating from Hopewell High School in 1997, he attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. It was at ODU where he decided to pursue writing as a career, making his first professional short story sale at the age of 21.

From there his work was featured in the DARK DREAMS anthology from Kensington Publishing, he was honored with a fellowship from the Virginia Commission of the Arts, and was a Top 10 finalist in the ScifiNow/TorUK International War of the Words Competition. His debut Young Adult novel, FAKE ID, sold to HarperCollins in 2011, and since its publication in 2014 has gained national acclaim. Among the many accolades are a 2015 Edgar® Award nomination from the Mystery Writers of America, and inclusion on the Virginia State Reading Association’s 2015-2016 Readers Choice List.

Lamar has spoken and taught at a number of middle schools, high schools, and for prestigious conferences and organizations like Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Virginia Children’s Book Festival, BookExpo America, and his work has been featured on NPR, CNN, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Flavorwire, Mother Nature Network, etc.

His books for young readers are represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and he lives in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife.

Phoebe Yeh is a VP/co-publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers.  Previously she was an editorial director at Harper Collins Children’s Books; senior editor at Scholastic Press and an editor of the SeeSaw Book Club. She has edited the best-selling series The Magic School Bus; Big Nate and The School for Good and Evil for middle grade readers and she has worked with Lamar Giles, Walter Dean Myers, Laurence Yep and We Need Diverse Books. Recent titles include LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL by Jeffrey Brown; FLYING LESSONS & OTHER STORIES, edited by Ellen Oh;  and DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone.

During this Middle Grade intensive weekend, you will enjoy the intimate setting of the Barn and the engaging faculty while giving your manuscript the attention it deserves so it may stand out in today’s competitive publishing marketplace. You can look forward to:

  • Writing exercises and hands-on revision practice.
  • Deep study on crafting voice and authenticity.
  • In-depth workshop with fellow attendees led by esteemed faculty mentors.
  • Evening readings around the fire pit or on the party porch.
  • Delicious vegetarian breakfasts and lunches
  • Dinners at local Austin eateries (*not included in price of the weekend)
  • A relaxing and inviting environment to create

Who Should Apply for Mastering Middle Grade?

  • Writers who are looking to hone their craft
  • Writers who are getting personal rejections from agents and editors
  • Agented writers who have yet to sell a Middle Grade
  • Published authors looking to study with the esteemed faculty
  • Writers looking for craft and camaraderie on their publishing journey
  • SCBWI members and WLT members, members of other writing organizations who have attended classes, workshops, and conferences routinely

Applications: To apply, fill out the application form here. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis so APPLY EARLY. Final deadline to apply is March 25, 2018. 

Book House compilationWORKSHOP with ONSITE LODGING: $925  includes:

  • Lodging provided Thursday through Sunday am on The Writing Barn grounds  at The Book House in one of five bedrooms: Pulitzer, Booker, Printz, Newbery, and Caldecott.  (No single occupancy rooms  if the event sells out. The Pulitzer and Booker have two full-sized beds, all other rooms have two single beds. Each bedroom has a private bathroom. If you and a friend are both applying, please specify roommate request on your application form.)  Please see HERE for pictures of the rooms and grounds.
  • One dinner, three breakfasts, and two lunches.  Mostly vegetarian. (Three additional dinners not included in the price of the workshop will be off-site at local Austin area eateries/food trucks.)
  • Unlimited snacks and beverages, wine and beer included.
  • Airport shuttle to and from The Writing Barn for those traveling to Austin, at pre-arranged times.

WORKSHOP ONLY, *with lunches:  $725,  includes:

  •  Locals not staying on The Writing Barn grounds.
  • Out-of-town attendees, once onsite lodging is full.
  • DOES NOT include airport shuttle, but will include transportation to off-site dinners.


  • Once you are notified of your acceptance to the workshop, a 50% deposit is due. If there is a waiting list for this event, and you have to cancel, all but a $30 application fee will be returned to you if you cancel 6 weeks before the event. If there is no waiting list, and the spot is unable to be filled, the 50% deposit is non-refundable.
  • Payments may be made via check or credit card. Credit card payments have an additional 3% service charge added.
  • The remaining 50% is due 4-6 weeks before the event.


  • If you care to extend your stay at The Writing Barn or Book House to retreat/write after the event, please inquire about discounted stays.
  • If you wish to have a Writer Massage in your room, during an evening, with one of Austin’s top massage therapists, the cost for an hour, full body massage is $100.
  • If you wish to schedule a headshot session with Author Headshot Photographer, Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography on the arrival day, please contact her at

Applications: To apply, fill out the application form here. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis so APPLY EARLY. Final deadline to apply is March 25, 2018.