The BSC and Me: Standing up for Middle Grade Series


My friend Amy had this one; we used to have reading sleepovers.

Mandy’s post at Forever Young Adult is like looking at the bookshelves of my past. Sometimes I wish that my childhood reading consisted only of Madeleine L’Engle and Frances Hodgson Burnett and Diana Wynne Jones. Although I loved those writers, too, a lot of my early reading consisted of MG series like The Baby-Sitters Club, The Sleepover Friends, and The Gymnasts. A lot of my Christmas/birthday/yard sale money went to these books. Probably not a surprise if you’re a regular reader of the Friday Fifteen.

When you decide to devote your life’s work to children’s literature, admitting you devoured these books feels a little like being a professional chef and admitting that you used to love a good ol’ bowl of Lucky Charms. But maybe there is a little nutritional value in those series. Most of them are written like standard tv shows–a plot that’s easy to follow, characters with one or two defining characteristics, and easy conflict resolution. Not great for deep writing, but it allows young readers to easily follow plots and characters. It’s a good way for young readers, especially those who have difficulty reading, to tackle book series.

Because of their familiar characters and structure, these books are also pretty easy to mimic. I remember writing lots of BSC/Sweet Valley Twin knock-off books. These stories won’t ever see the light of day, but they were a good way for me to explore writing.

Maybe these series were all written by committee. Maybe they were never going to win a Newbery medal or be taught in classrooms across the world. But they sure had a special place on my bookshelf as a kid.

(image: Goodreads)

Links Galore

Catching up on the webs:

Entomologist, Barista, and Other Famous Writer Jobs

Just imagine Margaret Atwood behind that counter.

Even famous writers didn’t start out as full-time writers. They had day jobs and summer jobs like the rest of us. Mental Floss has a great list of other jobs famous writers had, such as:

  • Nabokov was an entomologist of underappreciated greatness. His theory of butterfly evolution was proven to be true in early 2011 using DNA analysis.
  • Margaret Atwood first worked as a counter girl in a coffeeshop in Toronto, serving coffee and operating a cash register, which was a source of serious frustration for her. She details the experience in her essay, “Ka-Ching!”
  • Harper Lee, author of one of the great American novels and winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, had worked as a reservation clerk at Eastern Airlines for years when she received a note from friends: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” By the next year, she’d penned To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee, you have the best friends ever.

Make sure to check out the full list. If anything, it’s a nice reminder that a bad job isn’t necessarily going to stop you from achieving literary glory.

(image: sleepymyf)

The Personality of a Semicolon

Punctuation mark personality? Yes, please! My favorite is the semicolon, so apparently this is me:

Semi-colon (;): You’re well-read and urbane. You knew where this was on the keyboard before it became part of the winky emoticon. You’re more easy-going than Colon or Period types, but you’re still put together and usually organized. People are comfortable around you and tend to like you, though they may not be able to say exactly why.”

You could also read this as “you have a hard time committing to a real colon.” But I’ll stick with “well-read and urbane.”

Sadly, this list is missing some of the more unusual punctuation marks, but how often can you really use the interrobang, anyway?

Bookish Band Names

I’m not musical at all, but I still like to prepare for the possibility that I’m magically granted musical genius. Part of that preparation includes thinking up band names. Book Riot’s list of 20 awesome (fake) literary band names made me want to pick up a guitar. A few of my own literary band ideas:

  • Jane Eyre Guitar
  • No One’s Green Light
  • Oliver Twist and Shout!
  • It’s a Wise Child
  • Oedipus Wrecks
  • Scarlet and the Letters
  • Ferdinand Loves the Flowers

Feel free to share your literary band names in the comments. Maybe we can all go on tour!

Handwritten Manuscripts Get Analyzed

Although it’s very cool to see the handwriting of famous authors, I’m a little afraid of how mine would be analyzed. Mine probably most resembles Chuck Palahniuk’s, about which the handwriting analyst said:

“The crowded nature of Palahniuk’s lines suggest someone with “confused thinking” and a “poor organization of time and space,” who might even be “overly familiar”…inharmonious printing indicates a person who is fragmented in his thinking and has difficulty relating to others. He can be sharp and unfeeling in social interactions.”

Kind of makes me want to brush up on my penmanship.

My favorite handwriting of the group is probably David Foster Wallace’s:

I need to use more stickers in my writing.

(image: Flavorwire)

You Write What You Eat

Writing requires sustenance–sometimes weird sustenance. Check out Wendy MacNaughton’s illustrations of famous writers’ favorite snacks. I’m all in favor of Emily Dickinson’s homemade bread (we could swap recipes), but I’m not sure I can get behind Fitzgerald’s canned meat.

I try to limit the snacks during actual writing time. Otherwise it’s an excuse for me to not be working. But when I am munching, I tend to go for almonds or dried mango from Trader Joe’s, and a steady flow of water and coffee.

Do you have any favorite writing snacks?

(image: Wendy MacNaughton)(via the Kitchn)