It’s always dangerous to ask a person between the ages of 10 and 14, “What do you want?” Scratch that. It’s dangerous to ask any person that question. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask it—only that you should be prepared. People often want surprising, frightening, contradictory, impossible things.
In many creative writing classes, “What does this character want?” is one of the earliest exercises writers tackle. Not because it’s an easy question, but because it’s an essential one. And in Carolrhoda novels, the young protagonists grapple with that question in countless surprising, frightening, contradictory, impossible ways.
|Mateo wants his trike back.|
|Martin wants to feel comfortable with himself.|
|Quinnie wants to find her missing teacher.|
As I acquire novels, I too need to answer this fundamental question. What do I want on my fiction list? And none of this wibbly-wobbly business about plucky protagonists and character dynamics that don’t hinge on romance and females whose brains aren’t made of porcelain. What do I want, in concrete terms?
I want middle-grade fiction that isn’t rooted in one time. That could mean historical fiction that reaches forward and squeezes the reader’s lungs with its relevance to the present. Or it could mean contemporary fiction built on a past that the modern characters glimpse over their shoulders.
I want middle-grade fiction that’s funny and middle-grade fiction that’s heartrending, and I Extra Want middle-grade fiction that’s both. I want middle-grade fiction that doesn’t stop to let me catch my breath.
I want middle-grade fiction that reflects underrepresented facets of American life, and if you’re reading that as “something besides suburban upper-middle-class white people,” you’re not wrong. (Does that mean I’ll discard all manuscripts about suburban upper-middle-class white people? No, it just means you’ll need to work hard to get me interested. But presumably you’re doing that anyway, right?)
Maybe that’s still not very concrete. But aren’t most wants a little wibbly-wobbly? Isn’t that what makes them so fascinating?
Here’s how you can submit. Proposals are welcome through the end of May. Surprise me!