by Vera Ampofowah
“…And I remember sitting in that classroom and just being transported right out of it and into the story. It seemed like a miracle to me, and it still feels like a miracle to me.”
So says Gotham Children’s Book teacher Margaret Meacham as she recalls the first time she fell in love with storytelling. Her devotion to literature has followed her ever since.
It began during her childhood. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Margaret would love the book recommendations from her local librarian, and her love of writing evolved from her second-grade teacher’s narration of Charlotte’s Web and the Chronicles of Narnia in class. The ability of storytellers to create worlds with “little black marks on a piece of white paper” flabbergasted Margaret. She says, “They could create characters who were as real as the kids sitting next to me.”
In middle school Margaret wrote for her school magazine, and in high school she became the school newspaper editor. She then realized that her passion for storytelling needed to allow her to eat so, thinking practically, she got a masters degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Maryland, which allowed her to become a librarian.
Working for the Baltimore County Public Library brought her deeper into the realm of children’s literature. Margaret began reviewing children’s books as well as publishing articles for the Baltimore Sun. Witnessing the joy on the faces of the children she’d inspired to read and write, Margaret says, “It made me realize how important these books were to them.”
And she decided to start writing her own children’s books.
She has since written numerous middle grade novels. A particular favorite of hers is A Mid-Semester’s Night Dream, which tells the story of a bereaved young girl who is gifted a fairy-godmother-in-training who grants her wish of making her crush fall for her. Hijinks ensue such as random sneezing and characters turning blue like Smurfs. As a starting point, Margaret says, “All you really need is a character that you want to learn more about, or give them a vision you want them to follow up on.”
When Margaret isn’t teaching or writing, she makes it her mission to go outside as much as possible, partaking in such activities as swimming, skiing, and hiking. She also enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren and letting them inspire new stories for her to write. Margaret is currently working on a children’s mystery novel series called Sherlock Hawk, which is about a group of forest animal detectives.
Margaret’s advice for her students is to devote at least 30 minutes daily to writing or reading. “Keep reading, keep writing, and don’t give up,” she says. “You do it for two to three months and you’ll be amazed at how much you've got.”