When I learned that Meg Eden Kuyatt had written a middle grade novel-in-verse about a girl navigating her neurodivergence in middle school, I knew it was going to be special. And I was right! GOOD DIFFERENT just released from Scholastic and I know it’s going to be beloved by many. I caught up with Meg to learn more:
Me: Congratulations on your awesome middle grade debut! GOOD DIFFERENT is an intimate portrait of a middle school girl’s growing awareness and acceptance of how and why her mind works in the ways it does. What inspired you to write this touching story?
Meg: Thanks so much, Jonathan! Selah’s poems came out in the worst of COVID lockdowns, when my autism and anxiety had no more places to hide. I felt so overwhelmed, attacked and scared, and as I wrote, I dug up an old memory of a classmate braiding my hair without my consent. But then the speaker was no longer me but this other girl, Selah. And Selah took action. She hit her classmate! I was in shock, but then also I knew I needed to write a novel to figure out why she hit her classmate and what would happen from there.
Me: When I first met you, you were debuting your YA novel POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST (pictured below), and you’ve also published poetry. Were there any interesting differences or challenges in writing middle grade?
Meg: I thought there would be more challenges, but I’ve been finding writing middle grade so freeing! Selah’s story just burst out from me, if I’m honest. In some other MG projects I’ve been playing with, I’ve been having to be careful to not write past what my character understands, sees or perceives of a situation. Sometimes it’s easy to write how I’m seeing the situation now as an adult, but have to remember: would my twelve year old protagonist be that aware yet? What would she see?
Me: Though your book isn’t illustrated, the element of design to a novel-in-verse is very important. Can you tell me a little about how you decide to design a poem or page?
Meg: This is such a great question! My main focus for design is what will reinforce the content. If I want you to slow down, I might have a lot of white space and space between stanzas. If I want you to feel the frantic panic of my character, I might do one big stanza with long lines and no punctuation. There are so many great tools for verse to allow the page to really make us feel what the character is feeling.
Me: I didn’t notice any references to geography, but can you hint if Selah and her family lives in a certain state that you and I may live in? (Rooting for the home state here!)
Meg: Yes, I imagined this set in Maryland!
Me: Can you share what you’re working on now?
Meg: I’m drafting a new middle grade novel in verse, and have a couple things in the pipeline I’d love to see on shelves, but we’ll see. So much of this process is completely out of my control. The main thing I can do is write the next thing and be patient. Stay tuned on my website for any updates!
Me: Can’t wait! In the meantime, wishing your book much success!
Meg: Thanks so much, Jonathan!
To learn more about Meg and her books, please go to Meg Eden (megedenbooks.com).