Gut Reaction, coming March 2024!
Kirby and Quinn, please tell us about your book.
In this story, Tess Medina is starting at a new middle school, worried about fitting in and making friends. Plus she’s got a feeling in her gut she just can’t shake. She is also coping with the recent loss of her dad and what that means for her favorite pastime, baking. After a bumpy start, Tess’s creative baking skills cement new middle school friendships which give her the confidence to enter a baking competition. Just as things start to fall into place, Tess’s gut starts to fall apart. Will she make it to the competition? Will her new friends still have her back? And what’s her new normal going to look like?
How did you come to write it?
We wanted to share Tess’ story because when I (Quinn) was young, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Growing up with a chronic illness can feel isolating, and we wanted to reach out to kids and let them know they are not alone.
Quinn, what was it like writing with your mother? Kirby, what was it like writing with your daughter?
Quinn: Well, it took a lot of convincing to get my mom to write this story; about 10 years of asking. Her reluctance wasn’t because she didn’t want to work with me, but my years as a kid dealing with a chronic illness were difficult not just for me but for her as well. Once she finally felt ready, we got to work. Tess was born at a weekend writers’ retreat, with just the two of us. Her story went through many changes, though. I would send snippets or anecdotes to my mom who would flesh them out and send them back for me to edit and add. There was lots of back and forth! One of the big challenges was to figure out a way to make what Tess was going through accessible and not too scary while staying true to the realities of dealing with IBD (irritable bowel diseases).
Kirby: Writing with my daughter was wonderful and heartbreaking. Let me start with the heartbreaking part first. It was so difficult to watch Quinn suffer as a child/preteen with an undiagnosed illness. But reading her first-hand accounts of what it was like to be in her body, in her situation, nearly undid me. I always knew she was strong but until I read her words, I had no idea. The wonderful part was finding a way to use Quinn’s story to do two things: first, to build a pathway of hope for other teens who might now be suffering from hard-to-discuss diseases and, second, to foster empathy in those who are blessed with good health.
What do you hope young readers take away from Tess’s story?
We hope that young readers who are dealing with a chronic condition feel less isolated, and we hope those that do not have to deal with one gain more of an understanding. We also see this story as a celebration of friendship. There’s a lot of humor and hope, too.
What’s next for the two of you?
Kirby has the third book in a chapter book series for younger readers coming out in January. As for Team Tess, right now we are focused intently on getting GUT REACTION out there and in the hands of as many kids as possible. If readers of your blog have ideas for how we can spread the word, we are all ears! We have bounced around ideas for a second book, though what that will be is still in the works. Tess definitely has more to share.