Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Welcome Back, Kimberly Baer!

My Wild Rose Press sister, Kimberly Baer, writes for middle-grade readers. Find out why!

Reliving Childhood by Writing Middle-Grade Novels

Every story I write begins with a plot idea. From there, I decide which audience the idea best aligns with. Occasionally, my target readers are grown-ups, sometimes they’re young adults, and most often they’re middle-graders (roughly, ages eight through twelve).

Why do I get so many story ideas for kids? Probably because I have such fond memories of my own childhood. The span from ages eight through ten was particularly splendid. My friends and I spent long, unsupervised hours exploring the world. (Read about one of our excellent adventures in my blog “We Found a Secret Fairyland.”) We hadn’t yet entered the dark realm of puberty, with its angst and boy troubles. Life was fun and exciting, filled with simple pleasures. 

Writing for middle-grade readers allows me to revisit that world, to temporarily become a kid again. Sometimes I think I never really grew up, because I find it really easy to slip back into that mindset and view the world through the eyes of a youngster.

Of course, writing for middle-graders isn’t the same as writing for adults, or even YA readers. The reading level has to be lower, for starters. The themes are less sophisticated, and nothing too dark or disturbing can be included. The focus is typically on real-life situations, and the characters don’t delve too deeply into self-reflection. Those elements make middle-grade novels easier to write than books for older readers, not to mention more fun—at least in my opinion.

Generally, I have no trouble writing at a lower reading level. I’m an editor by trade, and I also teach the principles of plain language to people at my workplace. (My employer encourages the use of plain language in all our professional documents because it’s easier for everyone to read—even the brainiacs among us.) Writing middle-grade fiction, with its clear, simple language, is a natural extension of what I do at work. It lets me practice what I preach.  

Of course, the language limitations can occasionally be frustrating. There have been times when I’ve written the most sparkling, perfect, precise sentence the world has ever seen—only to realize it’s too complex for my audience. So I have to tear it down and try again, using simpler language. 

But, hey. That’s a small price to pay for the chance to be a kid again.

Blurb for Mall Girl Meets the Shadow Vandal, a middle-grade novel:

Chloe Lamont doesn't live in a neighborhood, like most kids. Her house is in the middle of the mall. And now someone is stealing items from her house and using them to vandalize stores. Who is trying to frame her? And how are they getting into the house? 

Desperate to catch the real vandal and clear her name, Chloe seeks help from the kids in her Mystery Reading Group at school. While searching for clues, the Mystery Groupers make an astounding discovery. And then things get really crazy…


On a Sunday morning in mid-September, I’m jolted awake by a shriek. “Chloe! Get in here!”

It’s not the gentlest way to wake up, but in this case it’s better than staying asleep, considering I was at the very beginning of the spider dream.

“Mom? What’s wrong?” I stumble out into the hall.

Mom, in her bathrobe, is standing just inside the kitchen. She beckons me in and points to the floor. Our eight-inch carving knife is lying there, between the table and the refrigerator.

“Did you do that?” she asks. 

I look at her blankly. “Do what?” 

“Put that knife on the floor.”

“Why would I put a knife on the floor?”

“Exactly,” says Mom.

“Oh, no!” My heart seems to slide up into my throat. “You mean—”

“It wasn’t there last night,” she says in a tremulous voice. “I just got up, and when I came into the kitchen, there it was. Lying in the middle of the floor.”

“Oh,” I say in horror. 

What has the Shadow Vandal done now? Murdered somebody? Apprehensively, I circle the knife, examining at it from all angles. There’s no blood. At least not on the side that’s showing.

Mom’s face is almost as white as her bathrobe. “Are you sure you didn’t use that knife last night? I know how you like to have sliced banana with dabs of peanut-butter for a snack.”

“I had popcorn last night. Anyway, if I was going to slice bananas, I wouldn’t use a big, sharp knife like that.”

The doorbell rings. Mom and I both jump, and I kick the knife under the stove without even thinking about it. Mom sends me a look that’s a mix of reproachful-grateful and hurries to get the door.

It’s Ram. I breathe a sigh of relief to see him standing there unmurdered and then freeze as a police officer steps out from behind him. I recognize him as one of the policemen who were at the scene of the first egging. Officer Sanford, the burly one with the shrewd gaze. 

“Ursula. Chloe. Can we come in?” says Ram, looking grim. 

He tells us there’s been another vandalism incident, this one involving a knife. The second he says knife, my knees go weak. I struggle to stiffen them, all the while trying to keep my expression serene.

View the Mall Girl book trailer

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Author Bio:

Kimberly Baer wrote her first story at age six. It was about a baby chick that hatched out of a little girl's Easter egg after somehow surviving the hard-boiling process. Nowadays she enjoys writing middle-grade and young adult fiction. She lives in Virginia, where she likes to go power-walking on days when it's not too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, or too windy. On indoor days, you might find her binge-watching one of her favorite TV shows: Gilmore Girls, Friends, or The Office.

You can call her "Kim." All her friends do. 

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jennifer--I'm honored to be featured on your gorgeous blog!

  2. Hi Kim and Jennifer! Kim I loved this book. It's such a fun read. D.

    1. Thanks so much, Donna. That means a lot to me--especially coming from another middle-grade author!

  3. Nice interview! Fun to read about fond childhood memories. Sometimes we forget those carefree days!

    1. Exactly, Darlene. And we usually don't realize how wonderful those days were until they've passed. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  4. Enjoyed the post, Kim! Wonderful childhood memories are the best. Wishing you continued success with your new release.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Mary. Thanks so much for those kind wishes!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. What a wonderful look inside writing for middle school children. Thank you for hosting, Jennifer. I loved this, Kim!!