Who am I? This is one of those universal questions that is explored in many books for middle-grade readers. It is a question that has popped up in the junior fiction/ middle-grade manuscripts I’ve been working on over the last couple of years. In two stories I’ve recently finished (unpublished) my main protagonists seek to find answers to questions around identity in very different ways.

I’ve been writing a story about a twelve year old girl who is passionate about her running. She has a dream of representing her country as an Olympic athlete. In this story, her mother is a single parent and the pressure of financial hardship makes it difficult for her to find the time to connect deeply with her daughter although she wants to. The story partly explores the impact of an absent and unknown father who re-appears in this girl’s journey of self-discovery.

The second story revolves around a ten year old who is an introvert in a family of well known, successful extroverts. This girl cannot see her own strengths and feels like a misfit in her world. Through a friendship which develops with her new neighbour, some wacky animal characters and new friends, the girl discovers she too can shine and overcomes her insecurities to do so.

I’ve just started a third middle-grade novel which will explore a young girl born in China and already I can see that questions around identity will again appear in this manuscript although I haven’t intentionally set out to explore this theme.

An encouraging and highly respected publisher once mentioned that an author will often bring up recurring themes in their stories. I guess I’m fitting that mould! Perhaps it is because I remember only too clearly those tumultuous years of pre-adolescence and how difficult it was to sometimes feel like you fitted in, or perhaps it is because sometimes I still grapple with questions surrounding my own identity that this theme is appearing in the novels I’m writing. Either way, I hope these stories will share positive messages of resilience, self esteem and courage with a younger audience if they reach public viewing.

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