Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Author Spotlight and Guest Post: Anne E. Johnson

A very warm Scottish welcome to professional American tween author Anne E. Johnson, who has kindly written the following guest post for Flights of Imagination. Anne has a wealth of writing experience in different genres and her first full length fiction for the Tween age group, Ebenezer’s Locker, combines the reality of school life with an intriguing paranormal element.

Ebenezer’s Locker

A hundred years ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. It seems that a couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.

Ebenezer's Locker follows the adventures of Rhonda, a sassy sixth-grader who's having trouble finding her place and identity. Getting to know these spirits becomes Rhonda's quest. The more she digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically-challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose, but changes the fortunes of her entire town.

You can purchase Ebenezer’s Locker direct from MuseItUp Publishing, or on Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Sounds great Anne! Thank you very much for writing this guest article.

Tweens and the Magical Hour of In-Between

The middle-grade market presents a particularly wonderful opportunity for creativity in the fiction writer. Tweens are, as that colloquialism implies, between stages. Kids of 8-12 years are developmentally very different from younger children, yet just as different from teens.

They’re more sophisticated than tots but not as surly as teens. And they’re ready for anything, while they haven’t yet seen enough to be cynical. It’s a kind of emotional and intellectual twilight that I find very rewarding to write for.

I gave some thought to why this age group is so special to me, and offer a list of suggestions for other writers who aspire to write middle-grade novels or stories.

Use your imagination. Tweens crave new experiences, even imaginary ones. So take them someplace fabulous you’ve invented, or some fabulous time you’ve researched. And twist that plot! Under no circumstances should the story be ordinary or predictable.

Make it fast. There should be plenty of action. It needn’t be violence, but things need to happen.

It’s more than “show, don’t tell.” Of course, as in all literature, scenes should be described in such a way that the reader feels s/he’s there. I’m talking about physical activity. And the characters should be the agents, the ones causing things to happen or change. If the world simply changes around your characters and they just stand there and take it, your young reader will close your book and start playing a video game, where s/he can have the illusions that s/he’s actually doing something.

I’ve recently been re-reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door. One thing that strikes me is the amount of time characters stand around talking about ideas. Do not try this at home! No publisher would stand for it, and no kid either. L’Engle’s book was published in 1973, long before kids had tablets, gaming devices, and smartphones growing out of their fingertips. It was a slower-moving (and generally better-educated) populace. And let’s be honest: even L’Engle might not have gotten away with it if she didn’t already have a Newbery for A Wrinkle in Time.

Make it smart. The tween brain is an awesome machine. These kids absorb vocabulary, scientific concepts, and all types of minutiae at a rate they’ll never match later in life. They’re hungry to know stuff. Give them unusual details. Give them new words. There’s little they can’t handle if it’s presented right.

Make it funny. All good teachers know that one of the ways to make new information go down more easily is to slip it in during laughter. Tween audiences can handle a fun combination of silly and clever, pratfalls and puns, wedgies and witticisms. So make that dialog snappy and make those situations wacky. And maybe a little bit gross.

Excellent words of wisdom and advice, Anne!

To learn more about Anne E. Johnson, please visit her website.
For updates on her publications and appearances, please like her Facebook Author Page.

Drawing on an eclectic background that includes degrees in classical languages and musicology, Anne E. Johnson has published in a wide variety of topics and genres. She's written feature articles about music in serials such as The New York Times and Stagebill Magazine, and seven non-fiction books for kids with the Rosen Group. Her short stories, in various genres and for both children and adults, can be found in Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spaceports & Spidersilk, Shelter of Daylight, and elsewhere.
Ebenezer’s Locker is her first published novel, and she has two more due out this summer: a humorous, noir-inspired science fiction novel, Green Light Delivery (Candlemark & Gleam, June 19), and a Tween medieval mystery, Trouble at the Scriptorium (Royal Fireworks Press, August).
Anne lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch.


  1. Sound advice and your books sound exciting.

  2. Thank you, Anne and Rosemary. This is really good advice and I'm very grateful. I've taken it all on board and it will be helpful. Anne, I like the sound of your writing very much.

  3. Thanks, Joanna, and have fun with your tween writing!

  4. Thanks for dropping in Sharon and Joanna!

  5. What a wonderful interview, Anne! Loved your reasonings for writing for this market. I too love the tween ages. Great job Rosemary in hosting Anne. Best of luck to you both. Ebenezer's Locker and Summer of the Eagles are both wonderful books!
    C.K. Volnek

    1. Thanks, Charlie. I really relate to tweens. Something about arrested development, I have no doubt!

  6. Very perspicacious. Gets right to the meat of what these kids want. So now we all know. Great guest blog.

    1. Thanks, Madeleine. And "perspicacious" is just the sort of word a smart tween would love to learn!

  7. Another really interesting - and very helpful -interview. It's fascinating to learn how other writers work.

  8. That's so kind - thank you, Charlie!

    Love that word, Madeleine!

    Hi Myra - thanks for coming over!

  9. I like your clear advice and wonderful insight into the child's mind. You've made me realize how receptive tweens are and what an added responsibility this demands from the tween-writer when putting ideas into their minds. Thank you, Anne.

    Lovely presentation Rosemary.

  10. It's a great post from Anne, Wendy! Thanks for coming over and for your kind comments.

  11. Hi Anne! What a wonderful post, with great tips. Thank you!