Member Interview: Author Meredith Davis

Created June 13, 2024 by Laurent Sewell

Texas: Austin

Our Monthly Member Interview Series welcomes Meredith Davis, author of THE MINOR MIRACLE.


Meredith Davis

Our Monthly Member Interview Series welcomes Meredith Davis, author of THE MINOR MIRACLE (Penguin Random House, 2024), as well as a forthcoming middle grade book (Waterbrook, 2024/25), and co-author of HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK (Scholastic, 2019). She has graced the stage at SCBWI Austin conferences, school and other speaking engagements, and for SCBWI Monthly Meetings. “Writing Strong Like a Butterfly” is one presentation title, and another is “Extreme Makeover: A Revision Case Study.” We have Meredith to thank for initiating the Austin Chapter of SCBWI, and she holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?

I spent the first ten years of my life in San Antonio, growing up amongst a gaggle of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I had a best friend and loved our home. At ten we moved to Richardson, TX, about a five hour drive north. I didn’t want to move. Books became my friends on long drives between our new and old homes, growing my imagination and understanding of how story worked. Leaving friends and having to make new ones was hard, and I see friendship themes emerge often in my stories. My new house was close to a playground with a robot slide, which makes an appearance in THE MINOR MIRACLE. I learned to play trumpet my first year in Richardson, and my main character, Noah Minor’s best friend plays trumpet. And I gave Noah a friend he’d known all his life. I always wanted that, a friend I’d known my whole life, and to live all my life in one house. It was so satisfying to be able to write a character who had what ten-year-old me desperately wanted! Great question. I don’t think I’ve ever pieced all this together!

Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later?

I didn’t really consider being an author, even though I loved reading and loved writing. Kids thought I was weird because I liked essay tests (and maybe because I wore culottes, but that’s a whole other thing). But I never connected the dots. I liked writing. Why couldn’t I be an author? That’s why I think author visits are so important! I never met an author until I was an adult, and I was so inspired and encouraged by them. I had to come to a point where I took myself seriously as a writer, which included claiming it to others (including non-writers). But all that time, even when I wasn’t pursuing publication, I was writing. In journals and on scraps of paper. And all that writing, all the way back to those essay tests, was preparing me. I just didn’t know it.

If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?

Every 24 hours is different, but I’m at a wonderful age and stage in my life where I have more freedom. My kids are grown, and I have a more flexible schedule. This requires more discipline to get to the writing, so ... if it’s Monday, you’ll see me zooming with some writer friends as we all work on our manuscripts for a few hours. If it’s a Tuesday, you’d see me watching my beloved first grandson, River, who loves reading with his Nana. He’s inspired me to try writing board books, in addition to middle grade and picture books. On Wednesdays I try to join local writers at Central Market. If it’s morning, you’ll find me with my journal, reading, praying, and writing poetry. In between those times, and to feed those times, I do other sorts of writing. I put out a monthly newsletter called Face Out with picture book reviews. I try to put pen to paper or fingers to keys every day, but if it doesn’t happen, I figure what does happen feeds the work somehow.

How does your everyday life feed your work?

I suppose exercise and coffee are two important parts of my everyday life that feed my work, giving me energy and endorphins. Also contact with writer friends, who inspire and encourage me. My family, with all their own triumphs and defeats, feed the emotional energy in my work. My books, other’s stories, are also important. I find whatever I am reading, processing, going through weaves its way into my stories.

Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.

I am proud of the Austin SCBWI chapter, which I started back in 1995 with the help of many kind and talented writers and has grown under the leadership of incredible writers and illustrators. Kathi Appelt, who was the Regional Advisor of the Bryan/College Station SCBWI chapter, helped pave the way for the chapter we enjoy today. I’m proud of all the accolades my first book, HER OWN TWO FEET, received, including the nomination for an NAACP Image Award and receiving a star in Publisher’s Weekly, and for the Crystal Kite award. It arrived in a fancy box with a pair of white gloves to use when picking it up and sits on a shelf behind me. I am proud I stuck with my goal of publishing after many years of rejections. And I am proud of the accomplishments of my writing friends, whether it’s persevering to finish a manuscript, getting back up after rejection, getting a contract, or giving back to our community in wonderful ways.

What surprises you about the creative life?

I’m surprised by the way the well continues to fill. The great Annie Dillard says, “The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.” I am afraid sometimes that the well will dry up, but again and again, there is something new beyond the “the end.”

When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?

I hope they lose themselves for a while in another world, that they find satisfaction in a story well told, and that they find something true, good and beautiful that they can hold on to.

Quick-Fire Questions:

What’s one of your favorite discarded “little darlings?”

The funny thing is, I can’t remember. At the time, they were darlings…and now I can’t remember a single one. My editor was right. It wasn’t needed. Let that be a lesson to you, dear writer. But next time I’m asked to cut a darling, I know I’ll throw the same fit I did last time.

It’s Karaoke Night: might you be singing “Defying Gravity” or “Walk This Way?”

This makes me laugh!! I’d be singing “Defying Gravity” (brilliant choice, since my main character defies gravity with his superpower). And everyone would be holding their ears and running for the hills because I can’t sing!

What do you see as your most mysterious superpower?

Knowing where to find a passage in a book by feel. I have a terrible memory when it comes to names, but when reading a book, I can remember where a passage was on a page. I have the uncanny ability to flip right to it (but I can only do this with a paper book, not with digital). How will this save the world? Not sure. But it comes in handy for book club and quotes for interviews, and I get a little thrill every time my finger lands right on the words I was looking for.