Why do I write Middle Grade? I could answer this question with seventy-five multi-coloried heart emojis, but I'll dig deeper. The thing I love the most is writing about fiercely strong kids. They take risks and figure things out They've got troubles, but – and this especially holds for my heroine- they look monsters straight in the eye.
Pull up a beanbag, 'cause here’s where I’ll get a little personal. When I was a middle grader myself, I had a different personality profile. At the start of 6th grade, I was seized by out-of-nowhere anxiety. During the school day, I was afraid to talk to people, and didn’t know how to dress myself beyond throwing a giant sweatshirt over my weird, changing body. I kept my head down, and tried to be as invisible as humanly possible. One day a popular girl complemented my necklace and my body inexplicably morphed into that of a petrified house mouse, I scurried into a hole in the wall l and lived off of discarded Lunchable scraps for the next two years.*
I had an Eddie Munster haircut and insomnia, but I also had books. Awesome books. Books about mice that were actually warriors...
and chubby short people who love bread (like me) who could take on a dragon
...or save the whole world.
I got lost, then found my way in the stories, and they became the architecture of me. Not the grades, or clothes, or even friends, but the inside stuff that stays permanent.
When I started out writing The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, I wanted to build a kick-butt adventure with ghosthunters, science, magic, and blueberry pancakes. But I think maybe my characters want to make a lot of noise. They shout out –
“Weird is cool!”
“It’s awesome to be different!”
"Who cares about your dumb haircut?! You can save the world!"
... And if they yell loud enough, maybe someone fighting that good fight through adolescence will hear them and feel a little better about flying their own flag and managing their own bangs. Hair grows out, guys - stories are forever.
*The very mildest hyperbole