Tag Archives: middle grade

Call For Submissions: antibullying anthology for middle graders

As everyone knows, bullying is a topic near and dear to my heart. Nobody deserves to be broken down and beaten up–physically or emotionally–by another person. Nobody. Ever.

And yet, we let it happen with great regularity. Even our anti-bully programs have been proven ineffective for many reasons: namely, that we are targeting our audience after their behavior patterns are set. Seldom do kids start bullying for the first time in middle school or high school. More often, these children have been exhibiting poor social skills (ie a propensity to bullying others) from their earliest school years.

Knowing all this, it is my pleasure to announce that I am heading up a middle grade anthology on bullying for Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. EBP is taking an active role in the anti-bullying movement and creating a collection of short stories that will delight young readers while empowering them to be stronger advocates for healthy relationships.

Studies show that targeting children before the age of ten and teaching them how  to positively interact with each other before their behavior patterns  are set is the biggest deterrent for future bullying. So, yay to EBP for recognizing this need and pulling together an anthology specifically with an eye to helping our youngsters grow socially.

Submissions can be told from the point of view of the bully, the victim or the bystander and must be suitable for middle grade (MG) readers between the ages of 7 and 12. All stories should have a clear resolution that will help readers better understand the impact of bullying and/or help give them appropriate tools to deal with potential bullying situations in their lives. The maximum word count for stories is 2,500.
  • Submissions can be sent to my email address ( catwoods.writer@gmail.com ) with MG Anthology in the subject line.
  • Submissions are due February 15, with a projected publication date of May 5.
  • EBP will not be able to pay for a story, but they will send authors a gratis copy of the final anthology.
  • So, spread the word, send me your stories and help ease the pain of bullying.

I’m a Cell-Out: Texting in Text

I know someone who is in the habit of randomly picking up unattended cell phones and reading through the texts found therein.  I don’t know about you, but I feel this is a serious invasion of privacy and more unethical than the nosy phone operators from the sixties who listened in on the party line.

However, this technological eaves-dropping has become quite common in YA books of late.  The key piece of info is texted to the wrong person, or a Facebook Folly creates irrepairable damage to relationships.  Cyber snoopers wreak havoc for the innocent PMer.  The wrong party pic ends up in the wrong hands.  The list is endless and limited only to our imaginations experiences.

Yet I can’t help but wonder about this trend.  Is it a cliche?  An easy out for info gathering?  Reality?  Necessary to engage our readers? 

The thing I like about writing Middle Grade is that the pressure to add these elements isn’t quite there yet.  Though I am under no illusions that, as more kids get phones younger, MG won’t fall victim to the trend/reality sooner rather than later. 

To date, I have only used texting in one of my novels.  My NaNo09.  It actually plays a key role in the suspense and over all story.  I’m not sure how I feel about it, except to say I don’t know if I could have pulled off my plot without it. 

I hate texting in real life.  I dislike it even more in my manuscript.  I think this makes me a hypocrit–being old fashioned and reluctant to integrate, yet needing the ease of texting to create a more plausible plot development.  It makes me feel like a sell-out.  And yet I can’t help but wonder…

Is social networking a necessary component in contemporary fiction?  Have you used these devices in your writing?  If so, how?  If not, how do you feel about the idea in general? 

As a reader, do passages of texting, emails or chats distract from the story at hand or enhance it? 

Am I the last cell-out?

Short Fiction Sunday


Mom said she had eyes on the back of her head, but I didn’t believe her.  Not until I grew my own.  Then I saw Mike Mansky try to put a dead frog in my hoodie.  I ducked and he flew over my back.  The frog did too.  It landed on Mike’s face.

Everyone laughed and Mike got detention for having a frog outside the science lab. 

Later I side-stepped his spit glob before it hit me in the head.  Then, I weaved around Principal Stiitz just as Mike leaned forward to put a note on my back.  His hand smacked a yellow sticky on Stiitz’s chest. 

He got two more days detention for calling the principal a dork.

I didn’t tell anyone about my new eyes.  They were my secret weapon against Mike Mansky.  And I knew all about secrets.   They lose their power when you talk about them.  I certainly didn’t want to lose my edge with the class bully. 

I called them my super-secret laser eyes.  Although that might have been a mistake.  As soon as I named them, I started seeing things.  And not just the people behind me.

My lasers saw right into them.  I couldn’t see their scrambled eggs sloshing in their stomachs or their blood pumping through their veins.  That would have been cool.  What I saw was worse.  Much worse.  I saw their secrets.

I saw Layinda’s heart beat for me.  It got really fast whenever I walked by.  I knew Toby brought his DS to school and that his stomach looked like a pot of rotten cabbage because of it.  I even saw that Principal Stiitz hit a car in the parking lot—and wasn’t going to tell. 

People were different on the inside.  My super-secret laser eyes saw things my real eyes couldn’t see.  Like how Layinda cried every night when kids called her fat or that Toby brought his DS to school so the other kids would pay attention to him.  He liked having friends more than he hated getting grounded.

Mr. Stiitz?  I won’t even talk about his insides.  It’s just too gross to think about.

The one that really bugged me though, was Mike Mansky.  His secret made him mean.  I saw things I never wanted to see.  I tried to close my eyes, but they must not have lids.  At night I scratched at them, but they wouldn’t go away.  Even the hottest shower didn’t burn them out.

When Mike chucked the ball at me in gym, I let it hit me in the back of the head.  Right between my eyes.  It stung worse than the flu shot, but it didn’t stop me from seeing.

I didn’t duck out of the way when he “accidentally” spilled his lunch tray.  My eyes saw right through the chicken noodle soup and chocolate pudding.  I cringed at what they saw.  I was lucky that Mike Mansky’s lunch was the only thing that hit me.

It was just too much.  That night I begged Mom for a haircut.  She buzzed it right down to the nubs. 

“Do you seen anything unusual?”  I hoped my eyes would disappear with my hair so short.

“Nothing at all.”  And I saw that Mom cheated on her diet with a piece of banana crème pie.  Worse, she was disappointed in me.  Again.  This time for snapping my little sister’s crayons.  I didn’t think she knew about that.  Or when I buried all of Janie’s dolls in the backyard.

That weekend I wore a stocking hat to hide from Mom’s secrets.  It seemed to help.  She didn’t like how weird I looked, but I refused to go out of my room without it.  On Monday Principal Stiitz didn’t like my new attire either.  He made me put my hat in my locker—right next to the dead mouse from Mike.

I went to the bathroom to throw up.  Not because of the mouse, but because of all the secrets swirling around in my head.  I had to tell someone before I exploded.

That someone happened to be Mike. 

He followed me into the bathroom.  He wanted to laugh about the decaying mouse.  Instead, I made him cry.

“I know about your secret.” 

Mike’s face turned red, then white.  His fists bunched up by his side.

“Your step-brother.  I know what he does.”

Mike growled and stepped closer to me.

“He put that mouse on your dinner plate last night.”

Mike shook his head.  “How could you know that?”

I almost told him about the eyes on the back of my head, but I told him the truth instead.  The one my mom sees when she looks at me.  “Cuz I’m a bully, too.”

People are different on the inside. 

Sitting on the bathroom floor, I told Mike Mansky about my super-secret laser eyes.  He told me why he picked on me.  We both found out I was right about secrets.  They lose their power when you talk about them.  And sometimes that’s a good thing.

Two Truths and a Lie


It was easy to dump my best friend.  Because, really, she wasn’t my best friend anymore.  We had grown apart.  Each walking different halls at school with different girls.  Maybe I shouldn’t have done it on Facebook, but I liked that I didn’t have to tell her in person. 

I also liked the kudos I got from my other friends.  My new friends.  The cool ones.

It was easy to text her all the things I wanted back.  My CD’s.  My blue tank top and matching shorts she borrowed when she spilled her malt and needed something to wear to the movies that night.  The newest book in the trilogy we were both reading. 

When she stood on my porch with a box, I made my sister answer the door so I didn’t have to talk to her.  She was just too lame for words. 

Her t-shirt was rumpled and her hair was tied back in two low pig tails.  Totally yesterday and not at all in.  I hid behind the door where she wouldn’t see me, hoping she would beg.  Just a little.  It would definitely earn me points with my new bestie, who stood beside me, snickering softly into her hand. 

Instead, she straightened her shoulders and turned away.  My stomach hurt until the party that night.  Guys, games and a dark room.  Did I mention these were the cool kids?

It was easy to fit in with my new crowd.  I learned that we were just better than everyone else.  We might talk about the same things, worry about the same things and laugh at all the same jokes, but we ruled the school.  No one could touch us.  We didn’t want them to.

It was easy to forget she taught me to smile when everyone else laughed at my messed up teeth.  It was easy to forget that she dried my tears when I was the punchline in the cool kids’ jokes.  It was easy to forget I ever thought she was special.

All I saw now was how she laughed too loud, flirted too much and didn’t care what anyone thought about her.  A-nnoy-ing.

It wasn’t easy to pull the box out from under my bed.  There was more in it than I thought.  Matching t-shirts we made on a hot summer day.  Home-made fairies in dresses of blue.  My favorite color.  And pictures.  So many pictures.  Of us swimming, fishing, hiking, laughing, making faces, hugging…

It was easy to blame her for our break up.  If only she had cared just a little, tried a bit harder, then she could have joined the cool crowd like me.  

And I wouldn’t be crying in my room all alone.