To me, middle grade writers are like Justin Bieber to grade school girls. They are my rock stars and something that I aspire to be. It was the night of the evening gala and I'm pretty sure there was some sort of 70's disco music jamming in the background while I slowly approached Mr. Hale and introduced myself. I didn't drool or let any sort of body function fly and made it through the brief conversation to ask him if he would be open to paying a visit to the Asylum. Without fail, he graciously replied yes with a big smile.
I then made a quick getaway before I had any chance of making a bigger nerd of myself and darted away into the night. And the rest of the story picks up here where I finally got to speak with him.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to writing for kids?
Bruce Hale: I was a reluctant reader as a boy, but once I started reading, I got into it with a vengeance! By the time I was in fifth grade, I wanted to write and illustrate children's books. After a long detour into cartooning, then journalism, then the corporate world, I finally self-published my first picture book, and I was off and running.
What advice can you give to those of us wanting to write middle grade series?
BH: Put yourself in a middle-grade mindset. Remember what you thought was cool back then -- chances are that kids today will enjoy it too. When writing middle grade, I always remind myself not to get too emotionally mature with the characters, but to have fun. Essentially, write to amuse yourself (with one eye on your readers) and you won't go too far wrong.
BH: Series requirements vary. When I was doing Chet Gecko, I turned out a book every six months for years. But some series with longer books only require one story a year; and still others require a book every four months. Short answer: it depends.
A lot of your books are filled with great humor. Is this a key element to you when writing for middle grade? Why?
BH: Yes, it's a key element. Kids love to laugh. And if you get them hooked with a laugh, they'll stay with you.
What is the biggest mistake you see a lot of new writers making? What can they do to be better prepared?
BH: Many writers are so focused on marketing, they don't take the time to edit and revise their work enough. Be sure that story is flawless before you send it out, and you'll have a much better chance of getting published.
Is there a genre that you are dying to tackle but have not made the leap into it yet?
BH: As a lifelong fan of werewolves, zombies, and other ghouls, I'd like to write a supernatural novel. Did a first draft last year, but it needs a LOT more revision before it sees the light of day.
|Bruce... brains... send more writers!|
In your opinion, what are some of the best middle grade books to read for those of us wanting to write MG?
BH: There are so many wonderful middle grade books. Here are just a few... Sea of Trolls, Bud, Not Buddy, Wolf Brother, Charlotte's Web, Whales on Stilts, The View from Saturday, The Schwa was Here.
If you had to be stuck reading one book over and over, what would it be and why?
BH: That's an impossible question. It'd probably be something from Shakespeare (Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet), because the language is so rich and complex, it invites rereading for deeper understanding.
That went pretty good, right? And you were nervous. Bruce, you are awesome and I want to give you a huge thank you for spending some time here at the Asylum and sharing with us. I'm anxiously awaiting your supernatural novel. The thought of it haunts me!