Author Spotlight: Meg Eden Kuyatt talks GOOD DIFFERENT
It's been a while since I've posted any author interviews, but I'm so excited to come back and introduce you to Meg Eden Kuyatt on today's blog! Meg is the neurotypical author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017) the poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020), and the forthcoming novel-in-verse Good Different, a JLG Gold Standard Selection (Scholastic, 2023). She is also a participating author with the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program. You can find her online at www.megedenbooks.com, Instagram, and Twitter.
Meg also has a giveaway for you! Click here for a chance to win an Advanced Readers' Copy of GOOD DIFFERENT, plus other goodies!
“The next Wonder.” -- Good Morning America
An extraordinary novel-in-verse for fans of Starfish and A Kind of Spark 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! Welcome and congrats on the release of Good Different. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks so much! GOOD DIFFERENT is a middle grade novel in verse about an autistic girl named Selah who wishes she was a dragon but learns to be powerful like one through self-advocacy. She learns what her needs are as an autistic person, and how to fight for accommodations through writing poems.
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.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying to craft a novel-in-verse for the first time?
I really strongly encourage studying 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 the line breaks are off without any real function, or there’s sudden shifts in line length—again, 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. When we establish and disrupt patterns, we can really create powerful emotional moments. 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. They would be even stronger, and really stand out, if they fully utilized the form at their disposal. 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.
What was your favorite thing about writing from Selah’s POV?
This was my first middle grade (as well as my first novel in verse) and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! I think I felt a freedom in the MG voice that I didn’t expect. It was also freeing to really open up about these seemingly small things in the everyday neurotypical world that really pose a challenge for some neurodivergent folks. It was relieving, and validating—like, it’s OK that this is hard for me. It is hard, it isn’t just something I’m making up in my head. While I wrote, I also went on the journey of obtaining my own autism diagnosis, which was validating too. So I guess in short, the permission Selah’s POV gave me to be honest about things I hadn’t really let myself acknowledge before was so freeing.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Good Different teach you?
There are so many ways I could probably answer this, but the biggest thing I think was to never limit yourself. Try new things. Before Good Different, I refused to try middle grade or novels in verse. I insisted I was a YA writer and a “literary poet” (ugh). But by doing that, I limited the possibilities. Now, I don’t want to limit myself anymore. I want to always be open and learning and strive for the humility to accept what I can do differently and better
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I’m really enjoying other novels in verse! Right now, I’m loving I Am Kavi by Thushanthi Ponweera and The Red Pencil byAndrea Davis Pinkney.
And finally, what has been your most rewarding experience as an author (so far)?
Most rewarding so far is the picture a teacher messaged me through Instagram of a haiku a student wrote about connecting with Selah.
So many thanks go out to Meg for taking the time to tell us more about GOOD DIFFERENT, writing a novel-in-verse, and the importance of understanding the neurotypical world. Be to sure to add GOOD DIFFERENT to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,