Author Spotlight: Meg Eden Kuyatt
Dec. 23, 2022
We are excited to feature author Megan Eden Kuyatt and her debut middle grade novel in verse, GOOD DIFFERENT (Scholastic), coming out on April 4, 2023.
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
My initial intent was not to write for children. I insisted I was a “literary” writer (ugh!). But also, I started writing seriously in high school, so I was writing YA because I was writing about my lived experience in the moment. I received encouraging feedback with my YA, which kept me going. Similarly, I fell into middle grade. For Good Different, it started with a poem about a childhood experience, but the poem turned as I wrote—it stopped being about me and became a girl who took action, who hit her classmate who was braiding her hair without her consent! It became clear it was middle grade, and as I talked to agents who expressed interest in me having a “middle grade career,” I became terrified. This MG thing was a fluke, I told myself. How am I supposed to write more? But as I read more middle grade and played with new ideas, I realized I loved this category more than any other. MG is scary at first—it’s about mining what’s for many of us our most awkward, vulnerable, confusing years of change. I didn’t think I’d want to live in that space of being eleven, twelve, thirteen years old, but I’m finding it incredibly cathartic and healing. I feel like I’m able to reach out to awkward, young Meg and tell her it’s going to be OK.
Congrats on your debut middle grade novel in verse, Good Different! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thanks so much! Good Different is a middle grade novel in verse about an autistic girl named Selah who learns to advocate for her needs and accommodations through writing poems. Her special interest is dragons, and she wishes she was powerful like one, as her sensory needs often make her feel so powerless. But as she finds a voice through poems, sensory tools, and allies, Selah learns she doesn’t have to be a dragon to feel empowered—and can stand up for her accommodation needs at school!
Selah’s poems came out in the worst of 2020, when my autism and anxiety felt so overwhelming in this world where people were (are) not being considerate of each other’s space and each other’s safety. 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.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
In a sense, both! I started querying novels in 2008, but this is my first “large press” book publication—so in that sense, very long. But Good Different, once I figured out what I wanted to write about and found that first poem, it took about a month to draft, went through Pitch Wars edits, got agent offers, then sold within maybe a month or two on sub. So Good Different’s journey was unusually short, but it took writing maybe 17 other novels—and heaps of rejection—to get there.
What were some of the best resources for you for writing verse novels?
I took a fantastic course with Kelly Bingham with Writers.com on writing verse novels, and this was so helpful for me with working on Good Different. Laura Shovan also has done some great talks on this topic, which really helped me out especially when I was first starting to try to figure out what this form was.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors, especially those interested in verse novels?
Persist, read, and always be willing to learn. Try new things. Take courses in writing that you’ve never tried. Maybe that means taking some poetry courses or a workshop on Op-Eds—or maybe even a completely different art, like assemblage! Whatever we learn will give us tools in our toolbox. Especially for verse novelists, studying literary poetry is huge. Poetry has so many tools at your disposal, but you can’t know about them unless you learn. This doesn’t mean you have to get an MFA in poetry to be a verse novelist, but maybe take some online courses with a writing center in poetic form, or buy some litmag or poetry books to read. I believe good verse novels are strongest when they utilize what both poetry and novels have to offer.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Even though I can be very energetic and articulate at a conference or writing event, I’ll often crash afterwards and may go non-speaking.
Where can people find you online?
Meg Eden Kuyatt is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee, and teaches creative writing at colleges and writing centers. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature winning poetry collection “Drowning in the Floating World” (Press 53, 2020) and children’s novels, most recently “Good Different,” a JLG Gold Standard selection (Scholastic, 2023). Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal and Instagram at @meden_author.
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