Timebenders Mailbag

“I love letters from little kids. Adults never proclaim themselves ‘Your Number One Fan!'”
Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Sisters Eight series

Doorway to Doom

One of the best things about being a “kid lit” writer is getting mail from Timebenders readers and their parents. I write these tales in the solitary confinement of my little office, and sometimes it amazes me that people, young and old, in all parts of the world, are actually reading and enjoying my stories!

The Timebenders books, beginning with Battle Before Time, are about the adventures of Max McCrane. I tried to make his invention—a time machine called Timebender—seem plausible and believable. Apparently, I succeeded. One young reader wrote me and said, “I liked the first two books a lot. Have you ever built a time machine like Max did?” A question like that reminds me of my responsibility as a children’s author, because kids take these stories very seriously.

I wrote back to this young reader and said, “Thank you for writing to me. I’m glad you liked the books! I have never built a time machine like Max did. I don’t think anyone knows how to build a real time machine, not even our smartest scientists. I think it would be fun to hop into a machine that could take me anywhere in time, and that’s why I wrote the Timebenders stories–because time travel is so much fun to imagine. I think if I could build a real time machine, I’d probably get into all kinds of trouble, just like Max and his friends! The other day, I went to a museum and saw the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and those bones were huge! I’d hate to meet a real dinosaur face to face.”

A young lady, age twelve, living in Malaysia, wrote to me for advice about writing. “If I wanted to write a book,” she said, “how long are the chapters supposed to be?” In my reply, I told her that her chapters should be as long as needed for the story she’s telling—just don’t make them too long, because readers like to feel they are making progress through the story. I imagine that, within a few years, we may be seeing this young author’s books in print.

One of my favorite emails was a single sentence from a boy in Minnesota. The subject line read: “Toby,” which is the name of a selfish, surly, irresponsible boy in the Timebenders series. My young correspondent wrote: “Thank you for writing such exciting books, but why did you put in such a jerk like Toby?” I wrote back and explained that while Toby is, indeed, rather unlikeable, his bad behavior always helped to launch our heroes off on an exciting new adventure.

I was surprised how much mail I received from readers who are outside the “target demographic” of the series, which is roughly ages eight to fourteen.

A father in Australia wrote to me, saying, “My six year old son has devoured your first three books and is now into number four.” Six years old? A first grader—and he’s reading chapter books on his own? I was impressed. The dad continued. “It’s hard getting him to shut off his reading light because your books really entertain him. I often hear his laughter from upstairs—and every so often he comes out of his room and reads to a passage to us that cracked him up. And he has given your books to me as a reading assignment!”

At the other end of the age spectrum, I received an email from a software designer in Missouri. He wrote, “I was in the bookstore looking for some grownup reading fare when I spotted the cover of your Timebenders book, Doorway to Doom. I picked it up on a whim, started reading, and loved the story line. I forgot about all the other books I had picked up and I just grabbed up the rest of the Timebenders series. I’m 28 years old and married, and probably not a typical Timebenders reader. But now I’ve got my wife reading the series, and I wanted you to know how much we are enjoying them.”

As you can see, I enjoy getting mail from readers and parents. So, please write soon. Post a comment or use the form below to email me with questions, comments, or (sure, why not?) complaints. I look forward to hearing from you soon.