Never Fear, Meena's Here - Review and Author Interview
These stories were so fun! Think modern day Ramona and Beezus! In Meena she touches on topics such as siblings, epilepsy, friendships, being yourself, and most importantly in middle grade, personal reflection. 💜
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Q: Welcome to TWR! We are so excited to host you for your newest book release Never Fear, Meena’s Here!
Let’s start with what was your inspiration to start Meena?
A: Thanks so much for having me! Honestly, my inspiration came from reading to my kids. I was already a freelance writer at the time, but I hadn’t read children’s books since I was a child myself. Reading them out loud together, I fell in love with those books all over again. Having kids of my own also meant that I was surrounded by kid voices and got to see the world through their eyes. Meena’s story and point of view grew directly out of that.
Q: What has been the hardest obstacle in your writing career thus far?
A: It’s that every new book I write is the hardest one I’ve ever written. It’s weird, because I have all this experience under my belt now. You’d think that would make it easier, but it doesn’t. Every time I start a new book, the process feels brand new, because I’ve never written this book before. That’s hard, but I guess it keeps me humble!
Q: Will Meena be a continuous series? When I read it I think modern day Ramona!
A: Thank you! I’d love to write more Meena stories. Everything feels precarious right now, though—in publishing and in the world—so I’m trying not to look much beyond the present moment.
Q: Can you describe your revision/editing process for students? Also, do you start writing on paper/computer/etc?
A: I always tell kids that my process is a lot like theirs. I use pen and paper to brainstorm ideas and start writing a “sloppy copy” before I shift to working at a computer. The revision process is what I spend most of my time on, though—and it’s not at all what most students think of as revision. It’s not just a quick proofread. It’s going over the same pages again and again and asking how I can make the story better. How can I make it funnier or more exciting? What words will make readers feel the way I want them to feel and picture what’s happening in the same way I do? I think a lot of students think of revision as a burden, but that’s where the magic happens!
Q: What have been some of your favorite middle grade stories you’ve read this year?
A: Some of my favorites were written by people who published their first children’s book last year like I did. I especially liked Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz. Bernice is bold and funny, and I’m pretty sure she and Meena would be good friends! I also loved Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, and Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell.
Q: What advice would you give to middle grade students who are writing?
A: I’d say to write anything and everything you feel like: stories, poems, songs, comics, letters, your life story…whatever you’d enjoy putting to paper. Read anything and everything you feel like, too! Some people think that certain books “count” more than others. I don’t agree with that. I think we should all read what we love, but we should also challenge ourselves to read other things. I love cheese sandwiches. I eat one just about every day, but it would be a shame if I missed out on all the other foods in the world because I never tried anything else.
Q: Future middle grade projects that you are currently working on?
A: I just started working on a brand new middle grade novel, but I spent the last year finishing a book for upper middle grade readers. It’s a very different story from the MEENA books but just as close to my heart. It’s out on submission right now, so fingers crossed!
Q: What were your favorite books as a kid, and what do you recommend to middle grade classrooms?
A: When I was a kid, I loved books about time travel, outer space, Narnia—basically science fiction and fantasy. When I was in sixth grade, though, my teacher read us Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. It changed my life. No book had ever made me feel as deeply as that one. I still read sci fi and fantasy, but I fell in love with realistic fiction because of that book. It’s all I ever see myself writing.