Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Call for Middle-Grade Fiction Submissions

Imagine you’re a young child, waiting patiently as Halloween morning turns to Halloween night. You’ve waited patiently all month, in fact, eager to sport a brand-new Oscar the Grouch costume around your Saint Paul neighborhood. Although you didn’t make the outfit and didn’t purchase it, you maintain a sense of ownership over the duds in the way that only a kid can. And then the snow starts to fall.

You can still go trick-or-treating, of course. But your costume’s material is too thin for this change in conditions, and instead you’ll walk the streets as a pirate. (Apparently your family had a plastic eye patch around the house even though neither you nor your brother expected to use it.) Once outside, every look from a nearby homeowner is a reminder not only that you are not wearing an Oscar the Grouch costume but also that an eye patch alone does not make for much of a pirate outfit.

Two decades later: You cancelled your membership at a nearby health club at the end of March. This spring will be all about outdoor running—the post-work jogs around Lake of the Isles you’ve missed these last few months. Minnesota weather soon makes your deft-if-slightly-optimistic financial maneuver look like plain arrogance. Rain and sleet come down, like, every day during April, the death throes of a wet winter. Susceptible to head colds in these kind of conditions, you stay inside your studio apartment, watching old Sopranos episodes. The first weekend in May, as the summer movie season’s earliest blockbusters debut, fallen snow lines the gutters of Minneapolis.

If you are me, you do not need to imagine these embarrassments, because they happened to you (me). So this year, I’m taking precautions. Whether the Minnesota winter runs from December to February or from Halloween through the next six months, I intend to have plenty of reading material. Specifically, I’d like to switch my screensaver to ‘fireplace’ and curl up among middle-grade novel proposals. Hot cocoa, a cable-knit sweater, and tightly written, idiosyncratic work for readers in upper-elementary- or middle school. Before winter taketh away whatever it’s going to taketh away, please giveth your submissions to me.

I’m making a stockade of manuscripts that adopt surprising perspectives, that make lateral moves, that aren’t afraid to scare readers a little. Books with empathy or a sharp wit or both. And crucially, books that can transport a reader, whether or not he or she is holed up in an office, trying to remember what sunlight feels like. Manuscripts are welcome through the end of November.

--Greg Hunter, Associate Editor at Lerner Books/Carolrhoda