Writing for ‘Tweens’
Article by Darlene Foster
“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”
– Walt Disney
What inspired me to write children’s books? In some ways I don’t believe I have ever gone much past 12 years old myself. I relate well to children. Perhaps you have heard the saying – “You are only young once, but you can be immature forever!”
I travelled to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago to visit a friend who lived there at the time. I had an amazing time and felt as excited as a child visiting the circus for the first time. Everything was so unique, exotic and ancient. My friend even commented that I behaved like a twelve year old. When I returned home eager to share my experiences, I started to write them down through the eyes of a twelve year old, who I named Amanda.
I love the 8 – 12 age group, currently called the ‘tweens’ or middle readers. They aren’t yet teenagers but they are no longer little kids either, so they are in between. They still have that eagerness for knowledge but are starting to question things. It is really the end of innocence, I guess. Writing stories from the point of view of a ‘tween’ has been a lot of fun.
However, the journey to publication has not been easy. Fraught with many obstacles and self doubt, I often thought I should just forget the idea of having a book published. I work full time as an employment counsellor and also tutor ESL students evenings and weekends, so my writing time is limited. It took me three years to complete the first book, Amanda in Arabia – the Perfume Flask. Then it took five more years to find a publisher. I had no idea that would be the hardest part. I was often discouraged but I persevered.
In those five years, in between sending the story out to many, many publishers, I wrote the second book, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting. When I eventually found my wonderful publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, I had one book completed and another almost finished. Amanda in Arabia was published in 2010 and Amanda in Spain in 2011. Now I just can’t seem to stop. Amanda in England – The Missing Novel will be published this fall and I have started on Amanda in Alberta. Amanda may have many more adventures around the world before I am finished.
Was it worth it? You bet! When I held that first printed book in my hands, it was like holding my first born. Sheer joy! When someone tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books, I have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t just a dream. Although my books are written for the ‘tweens,’ many adults enjoy them also. Perhaps they are the adults who remember what it is like to be 12 years old.
Some people think writing for children would be easier than writing for adults or young adults. I don’t think so. You have to remove yourself from the adult world and think like a child would. I like to hang around kids, listen to the words they use currently, the gestures, the looks, the trends. I read a lot of kid’s books too. In my latest book I feature a couple of teenagers from London that Amanda befriends. I had to use words and terms young people from England would use. With the help of my English husband, his niece and a number of British friends, I feel I got it right. I also watch a lot of British TV. My husband thought it was amusing when I watched TV with a pen and paper in hand and wrote down a word or phrase that I might use.
My hope is that my books will encourage children to travel and see the world one day, and in doing so, accept other cultures. I believe if you have the heart and spirit of a child, you can write for them. It may take a while to become published, but never ever give up if you believe in your story! A kid wouldn’t.
Darlene Foster is a writer, employment counsellor, ESL teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives with her husband on the west coast of BC with their black cat Monkey. She has written three children’s travel/adventure books, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, and Amanda in England-The Missing Novel. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.
See Darlene and many other authors at Central Avenue Publishing.
Connect with Darlene at her website, blog, Twitter, and on Facebook.
22 responses to “Kids’ Week – Tweens Author Darlene Foster”
Oh my goodness, Darlene, my girls would love you. I’m going to order your books for them for Christmas. It’s my dream to travel one day and I’ve long used books as a vehicle for that dream. My daughters are huge readers and I think your books would inspire a wanderlust in them as well.
Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Thanks Tonia. I am sure your girls would enjoy the books and will want to travel as well.
First of all, hi Karen…I came to visit your blog because of Stacy Jensen’s post today…I’m so glad that i did…I love your blog and all that you are about. 🙂
Secondly, thank you for spotlighting this amazing author and allowing her to share her story!
Darlene…your journey on the path of writing and getting published is inspiring…your books sound compelling…I’m only surprised it took publishers such a long time to key in on them. 🙂 From the descriptions, I get the same feeling I had when I was 10, reading and loving the Nancy Drew, Ginny Gordon type books…very girl-empowering and exciting…kudos to you. I’ll hop over and visit your blog as well. 🙂
Thank you so much for those encouraging words Vivian. I am glad my words made you feel 10 again!
Thank you for visiting, Vivian. I am glad you like the blog. I read Nancy Drew too. Loved those stories.
Wonderful blog Darlene! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who takes notes while watching tv! (or riding in the car, or substitute teaching, or sitting in a restaurant surrounded by teens or toddlers, or walking in the zoo) I will put your books on my “to read next” list, they sound like quite an adventure.
I take a lot of notes at the t.v., too. Used to freak out the ex when I took notes during CSI and cop shows. I think he thought I was plotting. Darlene’s stories sound like great adventures!
That is very funny Karen.
Thanks Jessica. Taking notes is what writers do. I hate it when i get a great idea while I am driving and can’t write it down. Hope you enjoy the adventures.
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This is a wonderful post! I loved getting the full picture of all the ‘Amanda’ stories and a bit of the background behind them. For all of us who have remained 12 (for the last 4 decades in my case but who’s counting?!) they sound like a fabulous read.
I tend to forget what it’s like to be 12 (it’s been so long!). I think we must get into the minds of our characters – no matter the age. Hanging out with the age group is helpful; reading the books of successful writers for that age group is too.
I agree with you, getting into the mind of a 12 year old can be challenging. I also like to pay attention to the way people/kids speak. I’ve never taken notes, however. Maybe I should.
I’m so happy that your series is doing so well. 🙂
One of the best ways to get into the group is to hang out at the mall and observe behavior (without being too creepy about it). I take so many notes, I sometimes have trouble finding the “right” notes when I need them.
Thanks Laura, you have always been so encouraging. You seem to do a good job of getting into the mind of a young person.
I LOVE Ms. Foster’s book! I think she writes exciting stories that are great for young readers. Great post!
Thanks Erik! You are such a great fan of the Amanda stories.
What important things you’re promoting through your books, Darlene. If you can expand the mind and experience (even vicariously) of a young person, you have given them an incredible gift. Keep up the good work!
Thank you Elizabeth. I have one adult friend who says she loves to travel vicariously through my books. When I was growing up on the farm, I never imagined i would someday get to travel. Reading books like the Bobbsey Twins made me feel like I was visiting other countries so I wanted to write something like that for today’s kids (and adults)
Not all of us (adults and children) can afford to travel. Obtaining knowledge through adventure books is the next best thing!
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