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.