She’s right. Read current middle grade novels. Two reasons: As a businessperson you must know what’s happening in your marketplace. Not so you can chase trends—most of us can’t get books written, bought, revised, and produced that quickly—but so you can position your book as akin to this or that but different in these key, marketable ways when it’s time to submit. That’s what agents, editors, and store buyers do with every book they buy or rep. You’re submitting, so I know this isn’t just your passion, it’s your business. Know your business. On the craft side, reading other MG will deepen your sense of middle grade voice and sensibility, and your writer’s toolbox will expand, improving your versatility as a storyteller. Please don’t be afraid of sabotaging your stories. Writing doesn’t work like that. You’ll mix and match new tools and strategies in ways only you can, flavored by your unique perspectives, interests, and experiences. As for the time crunch, one word: audiobooks.