Writing for Two Generations of Readers

PhotobucketToday we welcome special guest Cindy Hudson to Writer Unboxed. Cindy is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press, October 2009). She’s here today, just days before Mother’s Day, to tell us about books that resonate with two generations of readers.


Writing for Two Generations of Readers

The proliferation of mother-daughter book clubs has provided a new market for novelists to appeal to. These groups often start when the girls are nine years old, and they may continue until the daughters graduate from high school. Because two generations of readers are involved, this means the books they look for usually have elements that call to both moms and girls.

That may sound like a tall order when you’re a writer, but many elements that make a good mother-daughter book club book are actually the same as those that go into any good story. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind if you’re writing to appeal to two generations:

  • Timeless themes can be attractive for everyone from ages four to 94. Friendships, family relationships, honor, self-reliance, moral dilemmas and love are issues most of us deal with at some point in our lives. Moms and daughters want to talk about those things. A good example of a classic children’s book dealing with friendship that adults enjoy too is Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White.
  • Give them something to think about, but don’t hit them over the head with a message. Girls especially will balk if they feel the book is too much like something their teacher would tell them or their parents would use as a lesson. Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak fits the profile, because it touches on an important issue—date rape—but it lets girls draw their own conclusions about the character’s actions.
  • Write so kids can get the book on one level, while adults may see deeper layers involved. For instance, young readers can enjoy the face value of the story in A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck and Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Their parents can see a whole different side of the story by bringing their adult perspective into play. The results are both humorous and poignant, and can generate great discussions for younger and older readers.
  • If you can describe a book as a guilty-pleasure, it’s most likely more appropriate for one generation, either the older or the younger set. While moms and daughters may both gain something from reading pop culture directed at one or the other, these books are less likely to generate good discussion at book club meetings.
  • Remember that mother-daughter book clubs meet often, and both moms and girls have to read a selection before they get together. Keep the plot moving and the length reasonable.

In the end, moms and daughters are both hoping to find the same thing every time their book club chooses something to read: a good story well written that doesn’t talk down to or above either one of them. They are likely to go back more than once to writers who give them what they are looking for.

Cindy Hudson is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press, October 2009). She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online at www.MotherDaughterBookClub.com.



  1. says

    I love this perspective on a good story. As a mom of a 14 year old girl, I love sharing good books with her and talking about the story afterwards. A book is truly a gem when I feel like I can recommend a book to her and she can recommend one to me that will hold my interest.
    .-= Jewel/Pink Ink´s last blog ..Try to Remember Q&A, Book Giveaway =-.

  2. says

    Great post. I wonder, what are some other good examples of mother-daughter appropriate fiction?

    My guesses would be…
    * Secret Life of Bees
    * Twilight
    * Joy Luck Club

    And I wonder, how open are women & girls to reading from a male POV? I would recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, too.

    Are their father-son book clubs? How great would that be?
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..Read-search =-.

  3. says

    Hi Kristan – There are father-son book clubs, but not nearly as many, and some moms are also forming clubs with their sons.

    Your thoughts about other good mother-daughter books are right on. There are really tons of them, quite a few you can find on my website http://motherdaughterbookclub.com.

    The books you mention are for older teens and their moms. Here are a few others that work for that age group:

    North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (male point of view)
    A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnellly
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    .-= Cindy Hudson´s last blog ..Win a Signed Copy of When I Married My Mother by Jo Maeder =-.

  4. says

    @Kristian…Twilight? Come on, with the portrait of women depicted in this book, I doubt it’s something that responsible mothers dig. I’d be worried if my daughter read that.

    Not that I’m any more fan of the franchise, but Harry Potter seems better suited for intergenerational fiction.

  5. says

    What an interesting idea. I was at the London Book Fair recently and Sophia Bennett, author of Threads, was talking about how she was aware that her books were being read jointly by mothers and daughters – and how she had to make sure what she wrote wouldn’t cause them to be uncomfortable in this shared experience. There then followed an interesting discussion of swear words.

  6. says

    I love the idea of a mother-daughter book club, even if I’m not a mother (and will not be for a long time yet) and I never had that opportunity to share books with my own mother while I was growing up. It just seems like a great way to bond with your child, to talk about some sensitive issues and to explore some fantastic literature.

    Thanks for this post.

  7. says

    Oh, what a great idea! My daughter and I tend to share books already but we should really include our mother/daughter friends. I’ll be checking out your website for your suggestions (We’ve already read Twilight until the binding broke).