Tag Archives: tweens

Tweens are all little monsters, right?

When I hear the words “middle school”, a certain part of me shudders. Amidst the vague recollections of science labs or choir concerts is the overriding memory that kids in middle school are just plain awful to each other. The pecking order, the mockery, the sneering looks, the constant mood swings and drama … the fear that if you do one thing wrong you’ll be branded as a loser for the year.

photo credit: gurl.com
photo credit: gurl.com

Was it really that bad?


My daughter, who I’ve home schooled since kindergarten, will now be entering the local public middle school, and she does so with some trepidation because of what she’s heard from neighborhood kids about how mean some kids can be. She’s afraid of being bullied even as her own response to the slightest criticism is to retaliate in forces times ten.


Much of the middle grade literature I’ve read in the last few years deals with this kid cruelty. In every single book, there is at least one jerk or jerkette who seems to make it a daily goal to antagonize the main character.


Why is this what sticks out? Are middle schoolers all complete monsters? Really?

photo credit: vulture.com
photo credit: vulture.com

The hugely popular series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is brilliant on many levels for humor and relatability, but one thing author Jeff Kinney does is pure genius. He makes a jerk the protagonist. Greg Heffley is (in the words of his own best friend) “not a good friend”. The kid is completely self-absorbed and relates to the entire world with the intent of getting what he wants out of life—comfort, popularity, etc. The beauty of the “diary” format, is that we see how completely oblivious he is about the fact that he’s a jerk. We see his motivations (at least those of us readers who are not middle schoolers) as selfish, but ultimately very  human.


And so we root for Greg (except when he’s mean to Rowley—the rare face of the genuinely nice kid). Why? Because we can see both sides of the story. We see where he feels oppressed and where he shows ambition. We see where he feels embarrassed and where he finds triumph. We see where he feels longing and where he experiences fulfillment. These are emotions all of us can understand.


Yes, he fails to see the needs of others much, but that’ll come with age. In the meantime, we would do well to remember that tweens aren’t beasties. They’re just like you and me. Just … immature and self-centered about it. Developmental psychologists will tell you that’s pretty much par for the course.


What else is the norm? Idealism and a budding sense of justice. Competition and the desire to improve. Friendship and the need to connect with others. Independence and an emerging capacity to take on responsibility. Creativity and a seemingly limitless appetite for humor.


All-in-all, it’s an intriguing balance. One that makes for fun books and interesting kids. The future looks bright … as long as they can survive the 8th grade!


A shot B&WLia London’s books Magian High and The Gypsy Pearl both address bullying and the whole “mean kid” syndrome and how to rise above it by changing the way you look at people.

Why I Write for Tweens and Teens


Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard the author of the bestselling “Super Spies Series” and I’m here today to share with you why I write for tweens and teens.

First of all, I love this age group. Some of my best memories in my life are from my own teen years. It’s a special time when everything is new and exciting. There are many “first times” during these years, first dances, first kisses, and first dates and I enjoy writing about these experiences.

I also like writing thrillers and mysteries. When I was a teen I loved a great mystery and I always had my nose in a book. So it wasn’t a big stretch when I started writing thrillers and combined strong friendships with solving crimes.

In my opinion, having a group of kids that are heroes is important for our young readers. It gives them someone to emulate. However, my characters don’t always make the right decisions. This is important too, because I want my readers to see the mistakes my characters make and learn the lessons right along with them. I also want my readers to see that we can survive our mistakes and not take them so hard. We learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes, wouldn’t you agree?

Since the teen years are filled with a lot of “firsts” it’s imperative that we give them positive role models. These are the years when they start testing their wings and make their own decisions. If we give them characters that have to suffer the consequences of their actions, they’ll realize that they too must deal with their own consequences and hopefully will make better choices.

The Super Spies series are stories with loveable characters that make mistakes, learn from them, and save the day. Below are the covers and blurbs along with the buy links. The stories are exciting and will keep your teen reading and away from social media and the TV. 🙂

Thanks for reading my post. I’d love to hear about your teen years! Were they filled with angst, or do you have funny memories that you wouldn’t trade for the world? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!


The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750In a small town in Michigan, fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman and what’s worse? One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death.

Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own investigation. The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the investigation. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer.

Or die trying…


Amazon                   Barnes and Noble


TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are now living with their Aunt and Uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?


Amazon         Barnes and Noble


TheSuperSpiesandthePiedPiper 500x750Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are at it once again when they learn their missing parents’ cell phone has been traced to Alden, Michigan. When the FBI declines to continue the investigation, Sarah takes matters into her own hands. She calls upon the Super Spies and they delve into the situation. Suddenly, the teens find themselves immersed in small town intrigue and mystery involving a menacing stranger, who Sarah dubs “The Stalker.” But when Sarah learns he’s connected to her parents’ disappearance, she’s determined to find out what that connection is. The Super Spies embark on a journey that leads them into a web of corporate corruption at its highest level that leaves innocent victims in its wake. Can they find the proof they need to stop the greedy corporation before it’s too late?


Amazon      Barnes and Noble


20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on books by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. Her first published works are the “Super Spies Series.” These stories revolve around a group of friends who form their own detective squad and the cases they solve. “The Starlight Chronicles,” is the next series that Lisa created with musical misfit, Lark Singer as her main character.

Lisa resides in Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the next book in the Starlight Chronicles Series along with a few new ideas that may turn into stand-alone novels. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

You can find her at these social media sites:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1?lang=en

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

Using Tweens as Beta Readers

I like to involve Tweens in my writing process. One of my favorite ways to do this is to recruit a handful as beta readers. Not my only beta readers, mind you. I still want seasoned adult writers to take a look and make sure my story is well constructed. Then my editor is my final line of defense. But Tweens provide a unique point of view. After all, they are my target audience.

homeworkHow do I find them? Easy! There is a school with several hundred Tweens just down the road. I march inside and start asking teachers if they have any students who might be interested in reading an ARC and offering feedback before the book hits Amazon. The answer has always been a resounding YES! You could try asking teachers online, too. There are a thousand ways to make connections through social media.

So what specific things do I ask of Tweens when they beta read for me? I have them look for the basics: typos, spelling, homophones, etc. More importantly, I ask them to make sure everything works. Were there any jokes you didn’t get? Did the characters strike you as authentic or too stereotypical? Were there any questions left unanswered? Could I make any better vocab choices? I welcome all such comments and suggestions.

I have done this several times now, and the feedback has been terrific. It’s a unique opportunity for kids to experience the writing process with a real live author. And it’s a great way for teachers to help kids get excited about reading and writing.

So, what works and doesn’t work? Here are some tips based on my experience:

  • Don’t engage an entire class unless you want to wade through 25-30 responses. A whole class broken into small groups works okay, but it’s still nicer to engage with only 5 or 6 kids. Ask for high readers who might like a special project.
  • Make sure everyone involved gets a copy. This does get expensive if you engage a whole class, but in the one case where a teacher wanted everyone involved, I made paperbacks available at cost.
  • This does not work as well with sequels. I tried it with my second Taylor Davis book. I had to supply book one, and we lost momentum while the kids read through it. Try asking your original beta readers if you can email them when the next book is ready.
  • Do ask for reviews, but don’t expect them. In my case, the teachers have never followed through on this. They simply have too much to do.

There have been a few drawbacks, but for the most part, engaging Tweens as beta readers has been a wonderful experience. Who better to supply feedback than the audience for whom the book is intended? Fellow writers, you might want to consider such a venture when you plan your next book. And teachers, don’t be afraid to approach authors. The ones I know would be thrilled with such a suggestion. It really is a win-win situation.




Michelle Isenhoff writes adventures for kids up to age 79 (so far). She’s the author of the popular Divided Decade Trilogy and the humorous Taylor Davis series. Her newest book, number two of the critically acclaimed Mountain Trilogy, releases soon!

Writing for the Tween Market

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Hello Everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard, the bestselling author of the Super Spies series and I’m here to talk about writing for the Tween Market.

First of all, I love this age group! When I look back on my life, I recall my tween years as some of my happiest memories. In fact, my friends and I formed our own detective squad and tried to solve a mystery in our  small town. We never did, but let me tell you that was one of the best summers of my life. When I get together with those friends, we always bring up that summer and laugh about it.

When I look back on those years, I chuckle at my attitude. We thought we were invincible and we could accomplish anything! What a wonderful feeling to believe that there are no limitations or obstacles.

So, when I decided to write for this market I wanted to bring that same feeling to my readers. And being an avid mystery fan, it was a natural choice for me to write stories in that genre. However, I had to be careful because I wanted my characters to be good role models too. So, I made sure they didn’t condone or take part in any negative behavior like bullying or teasing. I had to do that and keep the story entertaining. No small task, that’s for sure!

While keeping my stories interesting, I also weave life lessons throughout the books; that way my readers can learn the lesson right along with the characters. Fiction can be a wonderful teacher, and sometimes it’s easier to learn a lesson from a book than it is to learn one from a parent. Sometimes, it’s easier on the parent too. 🙂

I’m always striving to teach with my stories and the other Emblazoner authors feel the same way. It’s so nice to work with a group of like-minded individuals. We all use different tools to tell our story. For example, some of us use humor, and some use fantasy or history. What’s nice about that is there’s something in our selection for every type of reader. So go ahead and check out our books, I’m sure you’ll find something for even the most reluctant reader!

Thanks for reading my post and if you’d like to share some of your thoughts on writing for the tweens in your life, feel free. We’d love to hear from you!

What Characterizes Tween Literature?

You found us! Emblazon is a BRAND NEW website that celebrates tween literature. Please browse our pages to see who we are what we’re all about, and tune in each Wednesday as we add new content. This is our very first post!

In celebration of our launch, we’re giving away signed paperback copies AND ebook copies of books written by Emblazon authors. Click here for details. Thanks for stopping by! 

What Characterizes Tween Literature?

Here on Emblazon we love tween literature. That’s the unique subgenre that falls between middle grade and young adult and can lean either way. You know, the one every reader of children’s books can sense but nobody really names or defines. Well, we’ve named it and defined it. We’ve even put an 11-14 age bracket around it. But what goes into a tween novel? What makes this genre so special? To answer that, let’s first look at the kids who read in it.

Middle schoolers, that’s basically who we’re talking about. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, maybe even fifth and ninth. These are the kids transitioning from grade school to high school, all at different rates. Their bodies are changing, their minds are developing, they’re becoming more independent, yet they’re still in need of adult guidance. Here are a few developmental landmarks characteristic to this age group:

  • Striving more for peer acceptance than parental approval
  • Moving from concrete to abstract thinking
  • Losing childish egocentrism; strong desire for fairness, justice
  • Understanding morality in shades of gray rather than black and white
  • Taking an interest in real world problems and issues
  • Changing body, changing emotions, becoming aware of sexuality

So how does this translate into literature? In all sorts of ways. Now is the time to start introducing tweens to tough topics they will face as adults, as Lois Lowry does in The Giver. Yet these topics must still be handled appropriately. Tweens are ready to empathize, to problem solve, to experience real life in a sheltered way.

A little boy reads a big book with grass at background

Tween literature generally contains a positive world view. Kids this age are beginning to think of others. They’re idealistic. They appreciate satisfactory resolutions because that’s how they want the world to work. They have a strong sense of justice and resonate with plots that see justice done. Tween literature almost always celebrates honesty, loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, etc.

Tweens are also looking forward to high school and greater independence, so protagonists tend to be at least age twelve and as old as fifteen or sixteen. Stories are often adventurous, with protagonists acting in peer groups with limited adult interaction, as in Harry Potter. The strongest adult characters tend to be mentors who provide a measure of wisdom. Books may contain some romance, but sexuality is generally toned way down. Portrayals of violence and substance abuse, if addressed at all, are portrayed in a negative light. Language is mild.

Middle schoolers are beginning to comprehend abstract ideas, so their books can be rich with metaphor, hidden meanings, and deep thoughts. An example of this would be the gentle lessons about life and death in Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. But these guys still appreciate the absurd and can understand a higher degree of humor, which makes Percy Jackson so popular.

All these characteristics make the tween genre so dynamic and rich. Kids this age are discerning and they demand quality writing. As tween authors, we need to deliver it. By understanding what makes tween literature so unique, we’re better able to recognize it, appreciate it, and create it.

Photo of girls courtesy of Jaimie Duplass via Photoxpress. Photo of boy courtesy of Stepanov via Photoxpress.


0451111When Michelle Isenhoff is not writing imaginary adventures, she’s probably off on one. She loves roller coasters and swimming in big waves. She’s currently training for a triathlon. She likes big dogs, high school football games, old graveyards, and wearing flip-flops all winter. Once an elementary teacher, Michelle now homeschools two of her three kids and looks forward to summer break as much as they do. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Email