Keeping it Real

There’s more to writing “tween” books than making characters come to life, crafting unique plots, and weaving suspense and humor throughout.

You also have to keep up with the times—what’s cool nowadays? What do nine to thirteen year olds think about? Are you using phrases or similes that relate to them?

This concept became obvious to me a few weeks ago when my husband and I decided to take my kids on a hike in Southern Utah.

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We were in an area with lots of natural red-rock formations. Some of them were high up on mountain tops, like the “elephant rock.” Other face-like formations were on the sides of dangerous cliffs. There was one outcropping of rocks on the top of a plateau, however, that was within our reach. By the locals it’s called the “milk bottles.”

“Huh? Milk bottles?” my kids asked. “What are those?”

It’s true. My children have never seen a milk bottle before. To them, milk comes in one gallon plastic jugs at the local grocery store.

We pointed to where the milk bottles were. They couldn’t see them. We then explained the precise location. Still nothing. Then we did one simple thing that changed their entire perspective.

“Think of them as water bottles,” I said.

“Oh,” my children said, “we can see them now!”

So, in the morning hours of that late summer day, I hiked, with my husband and children, to the “water bottles.”

Fifty years ago kids would have been stumped if you’d called them water bottles. Who drank their water out of bottles? But in 2014, that’s what our kids know.

One word can make all the difference.

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9 thoughts on “Keeping it Real

  1. What a great reminder to the rest of us, Lois! I loved your creative approach for getting your kids to see the bottles — instead of trying to ram down their throats an concept that had no context for them. More teachers need to think like you! Hugs!

  2. So true–one word can change everything. My contemporary middle grade series is set on an 8-generation old family farm–and sometimes city kids (and their parents) presume it is set in the past, just because it is on a farm. 🙂

    Perspective and familiarity are very influential.

    PS: You are hiking in beautiful country. 🙂

  3. Hyper post reminds me of the time we rented a car and my kids, with very puzzled looks asked, “what’s this?” My daughter held the manual crank for the window in her hand.

  4. So very true! There are so many things we took for granted as kids that our children have no experience with, like your milk bottles. 8-track and cassette tapes anyone? What everyday things now will be as unfamiliar to tomorrow’s youth as record players are to today’s?

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