Monday, May 23, 2016

How To Capture The Middle Grade Voice by Pete Catalano

It's Monday! And why do I seem so excited about it? Because it's the day I share another wonderful middle grade tale with you. And today I have an extra treat - Middle Grade Author Pete Catalano is here to share how he captured the middle grade voice. I'm so excited to read his hilarious book! Let's see what he has to say.

How To Capture The Middle Grade Voice (Or how this author did, anyway.) :)
by Pete Catalano

In ARTIFACTS I feel like I really found my Middle Grade voice for the first time.

In every #MSWL or every plea for the next great book, Agents and Editors stress VOICE! VOICE! VOICE! Once you know what they are looking for it should be easy to write – or is it?

The quest to find a voice that works, no matter what age you’re writing for, is a prize that once it’s inches from your grabby little hands . . . suddenly vanishes. I have been fortunate enough to find a voice that is perfect for the stories I write. A friend of mine wrote in a review of ARTIFACTS that they were “Impressed with how Mr. Catalano was able to create the hysterical sarcasm that is the trademark middle school wit.” I now wear that compliment as a badge of honor as I continue to write Middle Grade!

I guess it helps that I never really grew up.

To this day I still watch movies that other people last saw twenty years ago or more. I can’t turn down the opportunity to watch The Sandlot, Home Alone, Uncle Buck, or even Stand by Me every time it comes on TV (it drives my wife crazy! ) When I write a story I spend a great amount of time watching the action in my head, hearing the conversations between the characters, and writing it all down.

Finding your Middle Grade voice can be accomplished in a number of different ways. 

Become a teacher! While that might be a little dramatic or you might be a little late in life, you get to be part of the wonderful work they do but at the same time be a fly on the wall to conversations that will, one way or the other, find their way into the next great novel.

Read! Read! Read! Read! And then Read some more. The ideas you present in your story will be your own, but if you are able to pick out the sarcasm, the inflections, the wonder, and the conversations that make the reader want to turn the page, you’ll be that much closer to finding your voice.

Listen! If you’re drawn to Middle Grade in the first place there’s probably a chance that the inner child is still there waiting to be heard. It may start as a whisper at first but the longer you listen and the more you pay attention, eventually the words will pour onto the page. To this day there’re things I think are funny that others dis at one time too, but that was when they were twelve. 

I could say hang out at the playground to hear the way kids talk to each other, but in this day and time that will surely get you arrested.

Finding your voice in Middle Grade will be frustrating, awkward, and nearly impossible, but when you do find it (and you will find it) your writing will be funny, believable, funny, realistic, funny, authentic, funny, convincing, and did I mention funny?
Pete Catalano’s books are written for kids of all ages — and adults who secretly never grew up. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his adorably funny wife and two neurotic dogs. Pete was a theatre major in college and tries to keep the ‘suspension of disbelief’ in his life as much as he can. 
Want to know more about Pete? You can find him on his Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Goodreads and also by following the rest of his blog tour. 

by Pete Catalano
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books

Description: It's funny how one little letter can change a person's life. Jax and his friends have been planning the summer of a lifetime at Camp Runamuck. However, when one of them is facing summer at a school desk for failing English, they watch those plans crash and burn!
At the last moment they're given a way out.

An extra credit assignment to find several fake artifacts for a fairy tale display their teacher is presenting at the local library.

Thinking they've hit the easiest-extra-credit-ever jackpot, they begin rummaging through any piles of junk they can find. As they start putting the clues together, they realize that what they're really searching for is one authentic artifact that can rewrite fairy tales!

Enlisting the aid of the Lost Boys, Jax and his friends battle fairy tale villains to see who can get their hand, or their hook, on it first.

What do you find unique about writing or reading middle grade stories? 
 photo Sheri2.png


  1. Great post! As a former middle school teacher I can say that teaching is a huge help in finding the proper voice for the age group. Definitely!

  2. I love books with fairy tale elements. This one sounds like fun!

  3. Like your comments about finding the right voice for the characters. This sounds like a light and fun summer read.

  4. I can barely remember that time in my life, so probably a good thing I don't write middle grade. Although I had a character that age and was told I conveyed his voice well, so who knows?
    Congratulations, Pete!

    1. Yeah, and there's a lot about my middle grade experience I'm sure I don't want to remember. It's a hard time of growing up. Hey, you should give MG a shot. Like you said - who knows??? I'm sure you'd be great at it!

  5. Growing up is deadly for a middle grade writer. He's wise not to do it.

  6. Sounds like a great story, Pete! Thanks for a great post, to both of you, as well!

  7. Congratulations on your novel, Pete. A great cover. Middle grade books are some of my favorites. They're so much fun to read. Best of luck with yours.

  8. Great that Pete found his middle grade voice. I wish I could become a teacher to find mine. That's another reason I wish I would have picked that career. Good luck with your book, Pete.

  9. Sounds like a super read. I love to revisit my younger days :) Congratulations Pete!

  10. I don't write middle grade but I like to read it and yours sounds like fun! Congratulations :)

  11. Pete has some great advice here!!! Especially ~ read, read, read! Congrats, Pete.

  12. Interesting method Pete uses to find voice by watching old movies.
    Great tips!
    For me, I listen to students in my middle school and catch a few of the current movies.

  13. Amen to read, read, read! And I don't think you can write for Middle Grade if you don't remember what it's like to be a kid, vividly. The book sounds awesome.

  14. I'm a teacher and it helps. :) I also read a lot. Congrats to Pete.

  15. I enjoy reading middle grade, but honestly didn't enjoy that phase of my life enough to want to relive it. I imagine there are loads of other ways to hang out with kids the right age as a volunteer -- Boys and Girls Clubs or Scout troops; coaching kids' sports, teaching Sunday School, tutoring.

    1. Haha! I hear you on that point. There really are loads of ways to influence kids of this age group. Writing middle grade for me is all about going back to find the humor in lots of experiences, the humor I missed back then. lol

  16. I do find that having middle graders in my house definitely help with voice. And having my daughter read over something too helps. She would definitely tell me if a character that age didn't sound real.


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