Middle Ground Book Fest: what is it, and why should you be excited?

A brand new virtual festival whose goal is to create lifelong readers?! Teachers, librarians, and readers take note: the first ever Middle Ground Book Fest is happening in less than a month! Authors, teachers, and librarians will be speaking on topics like Deaf representation, animal stories, sibling relationships, books as windows and mirrors, engaging reluctant readers and more. You can catch all the panels between August 1st and 2nd, and it won’t cost you a thing.

I asked author Shannon Doleski, one of the organizers of Middle Ground, how the whole thing got started.

“It started with a tweet! Publishing segued into the virtual world, but as we transitioned into this new way, I noticed that the debuts were having a hard time having their voices heard. I’m one of the admins for our 2020 middle-grade debuts Facebook group, so I knew there would be people who were really eager and excited to be involved. I tweeted, “What if there was a virtual book fest for middle-grade debuts?” on a Friday night and didn’t think too much about it. And then I got a huge response. That night and in the morning, my friend Lorien Lawrence, another 2020 debut, kept texting me like, “What if we got educators involved! What if we did this?!” She’s a teacher, and we know that the best way to get middle-grade books to kids as a debut is with teachers and librarians. Janae Marks and Tanya Guerrero, both 2020 debuts, are in our group chat and were interested, so we started really planning this fun, diverse festival. It’s been a really wonderful experience to work with my friends and our fellow debuts.

We are so lucky to be part of such a warm, friendly community, and we can’t wait for teachers to show these panels and mini-lessons in their classrooms. I know that while recording these panels, I was so inspired as a parent, as a reader, and as a writer, and I hope others feel that same hopeful, communal energy. We have a little bit for everyone, but ultimately, we gave a space for newer authors to connect with kids and educators, which is our goal.”

To access the panels, all you need to do is check the Middle Ground Book Festival YouTube channel on or after August 1st or 2nd.

I’ll be on the “Hook, Line, and Sinker: Engaging Reluctant Readers” panel, along with authors JL EsplinArianne CostnerDoug CornettSummer Rachel ShortTania Del Rio, and teacher Emily Sawyer. Reaching reluctant readers is a topic that I am especially passionate about, and I am so excited to dig into it with my amazing co-panelists. Look out for a related blog post coming soon.

Panels range from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and will be available on YouTube indefinitely after the launch of the festival. Some of the panels would be an excellent jumping off point for a middle grade class discussion, or a library writer’s group prompt (Writing Villains panel, I’m looking at you!). Others would make for ideal professional development. Children and Teen Librarians, keep your eye out specifically for these:

  • Bridging the Gap: Upper Middle Grade Literature
  • Graphic Novels: Not Just a Novelty!
  • Curating Books as Windows and Mirrors in Classroom Libraries: Disrupting the Middle School Canon
  • Magic, Misfits, and Monsters: How Fantasy Can Help Kids Brave the Real World
  • Hook, Line, and Sinker: Engaging Reluctant Readers
  • Queer Themes in Middle-Grade
  • Back to the Future: What to Expect in Publishing after 2020

Middle Ground Book Fest is one bright, shiny, happy thing that’s in our library world right now. Let’s appreciate it, celebrate it, and lift it up. See you on August 2nd!

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