Sunday, March 13, 2011

Interview with A Middle Grade Reader

Today I had the double pleasure of picking up the laundry from Emma's room and helping her edit a rough draft of her life story. Just in case I was developing any kind of ego, I discovered that she loves me slightly more than her Aeropostale clothes and slightly less than her kittens. But she did agree to two offers.

One, she read the first chapter of my new middle grade (of which there is only a first chapter) and she agreed to honestly answer some questions about her own reading habits.

"You have reading habits?" I asked her.
"They force us to read at school," she reminded me.

She liked my new middle grade, mostly, but she thought the first paragraph was really boring. She's a fairly reluctant reader as she spends most of her time listening to and reading song lyrics. But her answers might shed some light on any middle grade you might be writing.

1. What types of stories do you like to read?

I only read realistic fiction or fantasy.

2. What makes those books good?

With realistic fiction, you can relate to what's going on with the characters or the plot. I love when not everything is perfect, like the character fails a subject or has nerdy friends. The perfect stuff is just not interesting.

With fantasy, I love the feeling that anything can happen. I can't stand when I can predict what will happen next.

3. How do you pick a book to read?

By the cover. Like the cover of Dear, Dumb Diary there's a girl petting a brain. That's the best cover because it makes you want to read the book. Or at least the summary.

4. How long do you read a book before you decide whether or not to finish it?

First of all, I am not mad weird like you, Mom. I don't read a book to the end even if it's bad. I give it maybe two or three pages. Then I just go on to the next one.

5. What is your all time favorite book?

The Midnight Library series. The best.

6. If twelve year olds could control what students read, what would the choice be?

Music on youtube, lyrics. After that, just nothing from a teacher. Let them go pick out what they like to read and don't force books on kids because you just ask your friends what they're about and what happens if you don't want to read them.

7. What type of setting do you like the best?

For fantasy, it has to be a different place, and creepy. An old house or a creepy lake. For realistic fiction, I like home and school only.

8. What do most of your friends read?

Boy and girl stories, romance and Twilight. I can't stand those. I like fantasy and most twelve year olds don't really like fantasy.

9. Do you have any advice for your mom's new middle grade?

Ummm, honestly?


Your first paragraph is dull. No one cares about description. But the creepiness is good. I like that. I like not knowing what will happen.

10. If I finish this one, will you read it?

Not if there's a lot of description, but probably if there's action and scary stuff.


Jemi Fraser said...

One of the best interviews I've read in ages!!! Honest and refreshing. #6 cracked me up - that's exactly why I let the kids pick out their own books to read in my classroom :)

Anne Spollen said...

Jemi, one of the qualities I loved about the kids when I taught middle school was the complete lack of social "filter" -- "wow, my mom got the same bad haircut you have. Did you go to that place by IHOP? Cuz that's where she went." They would say stuff like that.

It is pretty refreshing if you have the stamina ; )

Bish Denham said...

Well now, that is a marvelous interview. Getting inside the mind of a middle grader is a tad bit scary. Raising one must are brave mother Anne.

Stephanie Blake said...

So funny. Love how kids don't have any problems letting us know how it is.

Anne Spollen said...

Lol, Bish, I have no choice. I like babies, but I forgot they would grow up to become kids who enjoyed pix of pet brains.

Hey, Stephanie, famous debut author! Nice to hear from you --
no they have no problems in that direction. I'm just wondering, with a 19 year old, when the social grace kicks in...

K.C. Shaw said...

Excellent interview, very honest! And really useful, too. It makes me want to go back to work on my own MG WIP and see how much of that boring description I've accidentally added. :)

Anne Spollen said...

I love description in writing, K.C. - it adds flavor, pulls me in, but then, I'm 107. They really do hate it. In fact, I learned to only ask questions about plot when I taught middle school b/c no one remembered the descriptive passages. Most likely, that's b/c no one read them. So yeah, minimal adjectives.

Girl Friday said...

Thanks for this, funny and true! *runs off to amp up action and scary stuff*

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful interview.

And she gives a book a few pages to get good? She's very discerning. I wish I had done that when I was young. I'd wait 50 pages for a book to get good. So much time wasted on things that didn't please me right away.

Anne Spollen said...

Hi, Girl Friday! That's right, take it from the source. Middle graders tend to be your best advertisers, too, so you want to keep them hooked.

I know, Medeia. I highly doubt that Emma will be a writer, though. Kids who stick with books, sort of waiting for them to get good (as I used to do -- sort of try to develop a "taste" for a story) tend to be bookish.

Emma views my passion for reading as a kind of lovable disorder. "Poor Mom, and her books..." But I think she's more typical of her age group than kids who will become writers.

Mary Witzl said...

That was a great interview. I agree with Emma about books about people who are imperfect. Nothing irritates me more than reading about some happy paragon with straight teeth, beautiful clothes, and wonderful friends.

Glynis said...

Good to read the views of the younger readers. Thanks for sharing your interview. Lovely.

Elle Strauss said...

A big thank-you to your daughter for agreeing to be interviewed! Her answers were enlightening.