This blog post was written by author Meg Grehan. It’s part of Build Your Stack,® an NCTE initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Build Your Stack® provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.
I don’t have a goal in mind when I start writing a book. I usually have a simple idea and a main character, and that character and I figure it all out together. When I started writing The Deepest Breath, my middle grade verse novel that follows Stevie as she muddles her way through questions of queerness and mental health, the story I had in mind was quite different. It was only through writing and getting to know Stevie and the people in her life that a goal started to become quite glaring; I wanted to comfort people. I wanted to reassure queer kids and I wanted to soothe queer adults who were once queer kids who didn’t see themselves in the books they read. I think that seeing yourself in the media you consume can be life-changing, and equally I believe that seeing people different from you can be enlightening. So queer media, in my opinion, is good for everyone. I didn’t read a queer book until my late teens, and it showed me a bleak future for myself. With The Deepest Breath, I wanted to show that queerness is a beautiful and joyful thing, that you can be accepted and loved as you are, even if the journey isn’t always the easiest, such as Stevie’s mum not quite understanding what Stevie was experiencing—they still got a happy ending. I hope I managed to convey this message; I hope people can finish this book feeling hopeful.
When I started writing Baby Teeth, my young adult verse novel about a vampire named Immy, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to be, what I wanted it to say, the role I would like it to fill in readers’ lives. I had a character, Immy, a vampire who has lived many lives and whose past selves all live inside her, mourning the lives they lived. I didn’t have a story, but I knew she fell in love, and I knew that this love, while beautiful and intense, couldn’t end well. As I wrote, I started thinking more and more about identity, about how many distinct people we are during our lives. I thought about how tough it can be to feel that you don’t know who you are, how lonely. My goal for Baby Teeth became clear; I wanted readers to feel understood, to feel less alone. Immy may not be human, but her feelings very much are. I wanted this book to maybe make a reader feel seen.
It feels a bit silly to imagine how my books fit into readers’ lives, it feels surreal to even imagine my books in readers’ hands, so the idea of them having an impact is a wild one to me. But I hope that they can, in the short time they spend with readers, help them feel understood and valid and worth writing a million books about.
Meg Grehan is a young writer living in Donegal in the northwest of Ireland, with a very ginger girlfriend, an even more ginger dog and an undisclosed number of cats (none of whom is ginger). Her first book The Space Between won the Eilís Dillon Award at the 2017 Children’s Books Ireland Awards. The Deepest Breath was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, won the Judges’ Special Award at the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards 2020 and was selected for the Read for Empathy reading list 2020.
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