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Debut Author Interview: Meg Eden Kuyatt and Good Different Blog Tour Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Meg Eden Kuyatt here to share about her MG contemporary Good Different. It sounds like a beautifully told story in verse that many middle graders will be able to relate to. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An extraordinary novel-in-verse about a neurodivergent girl who comes to understand and celebrate her difference. Selah knows her rules for being normal. She always, always sticks to them. This means keeping her feelings locked tightly inside, despite the way they build up inside her as each school day goes on, so that she has to run to the bathroom and hide in the stall until she can calm down. So that she has to tear off her normal-person mask the second she gets home from school, and listen to her favorite pop song on repeat, trying to recharge. Selah feels like a dragon stuck in a world of humans, but she knows how to hide it. Until the day she explodes and hits a fellow student. Selah's friends pull away from her, her school threatens expulsion, and her comfortable, familiar world starts to crumble. But as Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn’t mean damaged. Can she get her school to understand that, too, before it’s too late?

Hi Meg! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thanks so much for having me! I’m Meg Eden Kuyatt. I am a poet, kidlit writer, and creative writing instructor—so I’m around words all day! I mostly focus on writing middle grade right now, but also write YA and poetry for adults. I’m also really enjoying the intersection of poetry and prose through novels-in-verse. I started writing poems because “all my friends were doing it” (ha!) but began to fall in love with it as I practiced, especially when my eighth-grade history teacher told me I was a good writer. As I wrote, I realized it was a great space to process and communicate my thoughts. In high school, I became serious about writing and got my first agent, but it wasn’t until 2017 that my first book came out with a small press, and now for 2023 that my first book with a large traditional press is coming out. So it’s been a long journey, but a very rewarding one.

2. It’s awesome that your friends got you into writing poetry in high school. Where you got the idea for Good Different?

Good Different came from Selah—because my novels always start with character. Selah 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.

About Your Writing Process

3. What made you decide to write Good Different as a novel in verse? What tips do you have for other writers writing a story in verse?

I didn’t exactly decide. So far, when I’ve had a novel in verse idea it just comes out that way. I start writing poems but there’s this overarching narrative and characters to explore and I go, well I guess I’m writing a verse novel! That may change but that’s been the process so far.

I really strongly encourage those interested in exploring a story in verse to study poems—whether that’s in taking some webinars or courses or doing lots of reading—just to get a sense of some of the tools at your disposal, and strengthening those poetic instincts. I don’t think everyone that writes a novel in verse needs to have an MFA, or needs to necessarily even think of themselves as a poet, so don’t panic! But I do get really pulled out of a novel in verse when they use the tools of verse to no clear purpose. There are lots of unique tools in the toolbox of verse, things like line length, enjambment (where you break the line), stanza size, punctuation, white space and caesuras, or how you justify the lines. I think a decent number of novels in verse that come out don’t pay as much attention to these tools, and it’s a missed opportunity. That’s the other thing—really make sure the content needs to be in verse. This is something my editor and I talk about a lot, and when I read content in verse that feels like it’d do better in prose, it really feels off. Verse tends to call subjects that are really emotionally resonant, and usually introspective. If you want to write a story in verse, make sure you feel confident that you could argue why it HAS to be in verse, why it can’t be anything else.

4. Selah sounds like a compelling character that readers will want to root for. How did you share her journey of embracing how she’s different without becoming preachy?

Thanks so much, Natalie! It’s really important to me that my books aren’t preachy. If we wanted a sermon, we would, well, listen to a sermon—not a book! That said, my childhood pastor has been a huge model for me in this. He always said that when he came to speak on Sunday, he’d share what God’s teaching him. I try to do that with my writing too. I try to just share what I’m learning, what I’m struggling with, and I think that personal, confessional act is something that can show instead of tell. Stories pull us in and can sometimes teach us way more effectively than being preached at.  

5. I so agree with you that stories can teach us things. Sometimes characters say things that are so wise without preachy that readers can relate to. How long did it take you to write and edit Good Different before you started querying agents? How did you know that you were ready to stop revising and start querying?

This one was really unusual. I drafted and did initial edits in about 2 months. I was accepted into Pitch Wars, where my mentor Eric Bell and I edited one or two rounds, then sent to agents. Most of my books have taken much, much longer and still are sitting in my drawers, waiting! I don’t know how to definitively define when you “know”—often I don’t know, I think I know but the book isn’t ready. But once I’ve felt like I said what I wanted to say, sent it around, people confirmed it said what I wanted it to say—and after that waiting, I still think it’s pretty good, or that I don’t really have anything to add, I start thinking it’s probably ready. If the main argument, the main idea I care about, is showing that it’s coming through to my readers, that’s the most important thing. And then if there’s market interest, that’s a bonus!

Your Road to Publication

6. Lauren Spieller is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Yes, she is! Lauren is the best agent; she’s a perfect fit for me and I’m so grateful to have her! She came to be my agent rather unconventionally. I was in one of the last classes of Pitch Wars. Lauren requested my manuscript from the showcase, and later offered representation. She’s very fast and very good, so we did a couple rounds of editing, sent off, and pretty quickly got offers!

7. What was the process of working on revisions with your editor like? What did you learn from the process?

It was stressful at first. My last agent was more difficult to communicate with, so she’d give edit notes, we’d think we were on the same page, but then from my edits it became clear we were on two totally separate pages. So I was really scared of this happening with Lauren, and then my editor Emily. But Emily is absolutely amazing to work with, balancing encouragement with really pushing my work to shine. I didn’t want to do much with Good Different. I felt like I said what I wanted to, and that people liked it, but Emily really pushed me to make the plot tighter, and to really dive more into the autism self-advocacy end of the story. I’m SO glad she did! I think the story is so much stronger now because of it.

Promoting Your Book

8. That’s great that Lauren helped you so much with revisions. You list a lot of writing courses, conferences, and other events that you have or will be offering or attending in 2023 on your website. Share how you were able to schedule all these appearances. What advice do you have for other debut authors who would like to attend events like the ones you’re going to?

The short of it is that I’m shameless! Some of them are set up by my publisher, but most of them are ones I’ve set up. I see an event or an organization, then email them and ask if they’re seeking proposals. You’d be surprised how many say yes. It never hurts to ask—the worst folks can do is say no, or not reply. And I really delight in this sort of stuff!

9. How else do you plan to promote your book?

I have a mini virtual “tour” with interviews like this, guest posts and more—which I scheduled because I enjoy virtual tours. I also sent out review copies to some folks I really admire and respect, and am doing some guest posts. But my main promotion that I do is through teaching, events and conferences.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m drafting a new middle grade novel in verse, and have a couple things in the pipeline I’d love to get sent out, 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.

Thanks for sharing all your great advice, Meg. You can find Meg at:

www.megedenbooks.com

https://linktr.ee/medenauthor

Twitter: @ConfusedNarwhal

Instagram: @meden_author

Blog Tour Giveaway Details

I'm excited to be a part of Meg's Blog Tour Giveaway. She's giving away ARCs of Good Different and other goodies. Here's the Rafflecopter link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/df05f79b2/

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Wednesday, April 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Roma Panganiban and a query critique giveaway

Monday, April 17 I have a guest post by debut author Justine Pucella Winans and a giveaway of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything 

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

21 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That's such a cool way to engage with MG readers! Best wishes for the release.

Carol Baldwin said...

Best wishes on your release, MEg. I love the title. I hope this book speaks to lots of readers.

Kate Larkindale said...

Best of luck with the new release, Meg!

Greg Pattridge said...

Great idea for a story that middle graders will relate. Thanks for sticking with your idea for the book and getting it through the pre-publication journey.

Brenda said...

Best wishes on the release of your book, Meg!

Kasey @ The Story Sanctuary said...

Oh cool! I think I've heard about this book on Twitter. I just added it to my Goodreads and entered the giveaway.

Steena Hernandez said...

Great post! I’ve seen this book on Twitter! Thanks for sharing and Congratulations!

Jessica Milo said...

Congrats, Meg, on your wonderful book! I can't wait to read it!! Shared on Twitter and entered the giveaway. This blog post was so helpful! Thanks for sharing.

Chrys Fey said...

A MG novel in verse about a neurodivergent girl? YES PLEASE!

Angie Quantrell said...

This sounds amazing! Congratulations!

Valinora Troy said...

Sounds an amazing story, and verse sounds perfect for it! Great interview and I would love to read the book!

@melissa_trempe said...

Your book sounds beautiful! Can’t wait to check it out!

Rhett Trull said...

Wow, I'm excited to learn about you and your book(s). This book sound perfect for me but also for my 10 yo who struggles with severe OCD. Also you're a Press 53 poet! I love that press, love Kevin, and will be sure to get your poetry collection from them. The Fairy Tale Review chapbook looks awesome too. Anyway, I guess my main point is: NEW FAN!

Stephanie@fairdays said...

I have seen the cover of this book, but didn’t know anything about it. It sounds awesome! I loved learning about where the idea for the story came from and I love books in verse. Thanks for sharing!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

What a great book, Meg. I've connected with you online. And a wonderful interview, Natalie. All the luck with this new release, Meg!

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview and sounds like a great read. Many congrats to Meg.
'Lo, Natalie:)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Writing a novel in verse is a bold choice (or not choice, in this case). I love it!

Suzanne Warr said...

I love that this story grew out of a character that took over. I think the best stories have characters with a mind of their own at their heart. I also love that it's a story that talks about these important challenges, and how hard it can be for a kid to navigate them. Bravo, Meg, and good luck in your publishing journey!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Danielle H. said...

I enjoy reading novels in verse and can't wait to read this book too. Thank you for the tips to keep in mind when studying and writing poetry.

Nina Snyder said...

Sounds like a good read! I subscribe to the email.