March 7, 2012

Guest Post: Stephanie Burgis - Why I Write Middle Grade +GIVEAWAY

Very excited today to welcome Stephanie Burgis author of Kat, Incorrigible and the soon to be published sequel Renegade Magic.  

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now she lives in Wales, surrounded by mountains and castles. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was chosen by VOYA as a Top Shelf Pick for Middle School Readers. Her second book, Renegade Magic, will be published on April 3, 2012. You can read the first three chapters of both books on her website:

She has written a guest post about why she write middle grade books.  I'm also curious about that.  Why do authors pick MG instead of writing for any other age level.

Stephanie has also offered up a giveaway of ARC of Renegade Magic!!!!! Details below.

First a bit about her books
Kat, Incorrigible
Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?
Renegade Magic
Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat's sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother's name.

Welcome Stephanie!

Why I Write MG

Every so often, I talk to another writer who is genuinely baffled by why I write MG. Why not at least move to YA, if I won’t/can’t write adult fiction? Wouldn’t YA be more interesting - more mature? Doesn’t choosing MG kinda indicate… *lowering voice* …that maybe I’m a little stunted emotionally myself, if I’m not interested in writing for older readers? Why else wouldn’t I want to live with older characters in my head?


Maybe this all comes right back to how I felt when I was a teen. I still remember the disconnect I felt when I got to high school and realized that I was supposed to be happier now. Everybody prefers high school to middle school, right?

Not me.

I really loved middle school. I had a group of close friends, and we moved around in a pack of smart, geeky girls, mostly unconcerned by popularity. I had truly fabulous teachers who loved my writing and mentored me in wonderful ways. As just one example, even after I moved  on to 8th grade, my 7th grade English teacher kept an eye on me and signed me out of school one day to go see Chaim Potok talk about his writing process at another local school. She thought it was too important for me to miss, as an aspiring writer.

Every English teacher I had in middle school believed in my writing, believed that I would one day publish novels, and I felt like I was blossoming with pure possibility in that atmosphere.

And oh, the middle school library! I still remember the sense of wonder I felt when I stepped inside that first time and saw SO MANY awesome books waiting for me! In that library - and with the guidance of the wonderful librarians there - I discovered so many of the authors who’ve influenced me as a writer and as a person ever since them, from Gillian Bradshaw to Virginia Euwer Wolff. Meanwhile, at my public library in those same years, I was busy discovering Georgette Heyer, one of the direct inspirations (along with Jane Austen) for my Regency-era fantasy trilogy, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE. I gulped up her books and fell headlong into love.

I spent my middle school years feeling like there were lights and connections sparking all around me, showing me a world of possibility and wonder. I was surrounded by people who liked me for who I was. I liked who I was, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Then I went to high school.

And. Well.

First of all, I lost touch with several of my friends as we all got put in different classes and lunch periods. I felt overwhelmed and tiny in the (comparatively) massive high school. And remember the cool stuff I learned/experienced in middle school? Well, here, by contrast, are some of the lessons I learned in high school:

- Guys don’t like it if you seem too smart. If a guy you like says something to you, giggle instead of giving an actual (possibly critical) reply. Act impressed by their intelligence, rather than sharing your own. (Sadly, I am not kidding about this. I still remember working out this social rule in my freshman year, as an aha! Moment.)

- Loving books is weird.

- Looks matter more than brains.

- …You know what? I’m too depressed to even go on.

I spent years and years of my early adulthood un-learning the lessons of high school, working my way back toward confidence and my authentic self, forcing myself out of the defensive, artificial shell that I had to construct to get through high school. I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self how wrong I was - or at least that the survival rules of high school are NOT the same as those of adult life.

Guess what? Now that I’m an adult, I’m surrounded by friends who love books and creativity, and I’m married to a guy (another writer) who wants to hear my real opinion - a guy who loves me, not the girly shell I used to try to put on.

So it’s no surprise that when the book of my heart arrived in my life - when twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson started whispering into my ears - it took me straight back to those earlier years of bright, sparking creativity - those years when I truly felt a sense of wonder.

I write MG to share that sense of wonder, and to experience it myself. I hope I’ll never stop.

The Giveaway

I’d love to give away an ARC of my second book, Renegade Magic, to a commenter on this blog entry! And I’m happy to ship it internationally. 

Just let me know - what’s one memory (of a book or an event) from your middle school years?

Ends March 31st


  1. Well I can't say that middle grade or high school were happy times for me. I was very shy and didn't have many friends. It took growing into adulthood to feel comfortable with who I am and find lasting friendships.

    But I love reading middle grade because it brings me back to those middle grade issues, usually with happier results than my own life. Congrats on your second book Stephanie. I'd love to win.

  2. I wish to read the 3 books for sure.

    The event of my childhood is when I went to the book fair with my father, holding his hands & my little eyes are open wide because of the colorful books; I still want that princess book I did not got by then.

  3. I too loved middle school. The kids are just sweeter (less tainted) then.

    I love when you said, "I spent years and years of my early adulthood un-learning the lessons of high school." AMEN! So true.

    Great post!
    (not an entry)

  4. This is one of the best answers I've ever read to "Why write MG?" Unfortunately, it seems like that time of wonder, when brains and creativity are = to or > looks, keeps moving to younger and younger grades. For me, I think that was around 4th - 6th grade. As a middle school teacher and librarian myself, I wish kids could retain that innocence and excitement about the world for much, much longer.

    One of my favorite memories from middle school was partner reading time in Mrs. Sisson's class. She would let us sprawl out around the room (under her desk was the best spot!) and real aloud to our partner in funny or dramatic accents. I loved it :)

    Thank you for the chance to win!

  5. I love middle grade. Not to mention I have a middle grader and a soon to be middle grader that reads middle grade in my house. And Kat, Incorrigible sounds like something we'd love to read.

  6. Hmm, I'd have to say that the junior high years were not my best. My older siblings moved out, my parents divorced, and while every other girl was developing a figure the only thing growing on me were my feet.

    Reading got me through this awkward stage. My mom was a librarian (LIBRARIANS ROCK) and there was always a stack of books in our living room waiting to be read. Island of the Blue Dolphin, A Wrinkle in Time, Are you there God? It's me, Margaret - who needs boobies when you've got great books.

  7. I remember discovering Gone with the Wind in 8th grade and just being completely sucked into the story and the characters. I became obsessed with everything about it (including the movie). I think it was my first experience with a book that didn't end happily ever after. And it left an impression!

  8. I remember falling completely in love with Meg Cabot's series, The Princess Diaries. I mean I always loved reading, but once I read about Mia I realized how amazing books truly were! I loved how it took me away from reality and gave me friends with every page turn!

  9. I was homeschooled during my middle grade years. I remember an intense longing to go to 'regular' school, the fun and camaraderie of my swim team crew, and borrowing the maximum number of books from the library during each visit.
    I read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles when I was eleven - and wasn't that an education! Such good memories of lazy days reading, swimming, and figuring out the world. The middle grade years are awesome!

  10. Stephanie's books look terrific. Middle school is a, hmmmm, shall we say, special time. I'd love to read this.

  11. Hmmm... Middle School book memories... I'd have to say the first thing that comes to mind is Trixie Belden. :-) Loved all those mysteries!

  12. I for one am very glad you write middle grade! Thanks for an opportunity to win Renegade Magic.

    One of my best memories is a sleepover with about 8 other girls. We set out to stay up all night...and we did! Then we all went for a walk at dawn, truly and utterly amazed we'd actually managed to talk all night.

  13. this post is BRILLANT! Maybe you should also do one 'why I read middle grade'. I love, love, love it. Thanks for writing it!

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  14. My middle school years were filled with mischief, but the fun kind, and music. I do remember reading The Secret Garden by Burnett and being obsessed with finding my own secret anything. To this day I still want a secret room in my house. I don't care how small, it just has to be secret!!
    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  15. What a cool story! I love writing MG for that same reason.

    Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors (My Name Is Asher Lev--awesome).

  16. Ah, you felt so alone back then, like I did, like so many of us did. Maybe, if we weren't so quiet about it, all of us "misfits" would have banded together. We weren't so small a group, after all, eh?

  17. I can't say that anything so bad happened to me in high school, and yet it's not a time in my life I wish to relive. I do think that writing books for young people does make us go back in some way or another to those memories, and to that feeling of what we were like at the age of our protagonists. I definitely felt 5th and 6th grade were the highlights of my childhood, when I felt at home with myself and I had friends that liked me as I was. I don't think it's a surprise I like writing for that age group now.

    So this post resonated with me - about why we write for the age group we do.

    Great post.

  18. I've half read THE LITTLE PRINCE because it was from the library and the renting fee was expensive that time.

  19. Middle Grade is tied into the first book I've ever read and how I fell in love with reading. I didn't know it was possible to get lost in a book and miss lunch.


  20. I devoured both the Anne and the Babysitters Club books in middle school. My librarian introduced me toeverything!

  21. Loved Kat, Incorrigible. The cover alone was so adorable.

    By late elementary school, I was reading my dad's books, so my middle school memories are of getting lost in stories like Watership Down, Salem's Lot, and Jaws (and its scandalous cover).

  22. Best Book-Related Middle School Memory: Reading Lab Basically this was an hour (50 min, whatever) of reading. Lots of different reading. Sure, we had to answer questions or write summaries, but there were cozy places to read, and it was read at your own pace. Favorite class.

  23. I remember how fond I was of getting new books from Scholastic then. Thanks for the post and the giveaway; I enjoyed the first Kat book and look forward to the second.

  24. I had somewhat of a similar experience with high school and middle school. Middle school I could excel by being interested and clever, but in high school I was too mouthy (I used big words), too disrespectful (I had my own ideas), and too weird (I had my own interests which weren't boys and looks). I'm still unlearning the high school lessons, and as horrible as that was, I'm glad someone else had a similar experience. :P I'm not alone! Whoo!

    I vividly remember at age 10, I finished all the science fiction and fantasy in the "children's" section and moved into the adult SF and F. I used to bring a tupperware container of the kind that is usually used to transport multiple lasagnas, and fill it every two weeks. A lot of Star Wars books, and a lot of Star Trek books, and historical fiction to fill in around the edges of my 24 or more paperback science fiction books. Man, no wonder I was a strange child.

  25. My favorite reading memory from middle school was winning a reading contest. I read the most pages of all the sixth graders. It was the first time I won anything and I was thrilled. The t-shirt and gift certificate helped of course. Strangely enough I think I used the certificate to buy Baby-sitters club books, which I loved then and which I roll my eyes at now. Ah, the power of memories.

  26. My memories all going back to R. L. Stine's books that scared me for long night.

  27. I don't remember much about my MIddle School years -- I didn't like school then and probably didn't read much until I got into high school when things got a lot better.
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