Interview with Lakita Wilson about BE REAL, MACY WEAVER

Eleven-year-old Macy Weaver knows relationships are complicated. Fresh off her latest friendship breakup, she’s spent most of her summer break on her own. So when Macy’s mother decides to go back to college three states away, Macy jumps on the chance to move—anything for a fresh start.
But Macy’s new home isn’t exactly what she expected. Her mother’s never around and her dad’s always working. Lonelier than ever, Macy sets her sights on finding a new best friend. When she meets Brynn, who’s smart and kind and already seems to have her whole life figured out—down to her future as a high fashion model—Macy knows she’s it. The only problem is that Brynn already has a BFF and, as everyone knows, you can only have one.
 Resorting to old habits, Macy turns one small lie into a whole new life—full of fantastic fashion and haute couture—but it isn’t long before everything really falls apart. Ultimately, Macy must determine how to make things right and be true to herself—rather than chasing after the person she thinks she’s supposed to be.

BE REAL, MACY WEAVER celebrates differences, creativity, and individuality, perfect for fans of Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and Stand Up, Yumi Chung by Jessica Kim. Though Macy struggles to find one true best friend, she may discover a better way forward, finding a community and friendships of all different kinds. For all the kids who haven’t found their one best friend—this book can be like a warm hug.

Shari: Hi Lakita! Welcome to MG Book Village! I’m thrilled to chat with you today about your debut novel, Be Real, Macy Weaver, which just released on Tuesday!  What would you like to tell us about your book?

Lakita: Be Real, Macy Weaver is a story for young readers who struggle with the idea that they are enough. This story includes the journey of self-discovery and community building—not just for Macy, but many of the secondary characters as well. 

Shari: Macy is a character many readers will empathize with, struggling to find a best friend and going about it in all the wrong ways. She makes a lot of mistakes, but what are her strengths? What do you love about her?

Lakita: I love Macy’s hope and her resilience. Macy’s intentions are human. She hopes to someday find a companion that sticks around. She also hopes to one day feel supported and cared for. This hope is what drives her, even if she doesn’t quite understand the best way to build friendships where this comes naturally. I love the way Macy accepts responsibility for getting it wrong, and works hard to make things right. No friendship is perfect—and the people closest to us will probably say or do something hurtful at some point. The friend who can own up to their mistakes and work on doing better is the friend who deserves another chance. And Macy, despite her flaws, was willing to retrace her steps and begin again to become the friend that she herself was seeking.    

Shari: Macy is also going through some major family upheaval.  Why do you think it is important to write stories that include family struggles?

Lakita: I wanted to show that Macy doesn’t live a perfect life—but none of those imperfections, besides the lying, hurt any of Macy’s friendships. Friends, and people who truly care about you won’t care how much money you have, or whether your mom is around. Those struggles affect you, but they aren’t you. 

I’ve received feedback from readers already about the mom—and how she’s this terrible person. And, I’ll admit, she wasn’t the best. But there’s also children who are at home right now, living—or not living with, this same type of mom. And if we don’t acknowledge this, then children will continue to feel very isolated, thinking they are the only one’s dealing with this type of struggle. 

Shari: Yes, Macy’s mom seemed very selfish, but I just loved her dad and how supportive he was of Macy.  I think you did a great job of modeling positive role models in Macy’s life, including the school counselor! 

Fashion and clothing play a significant role in Macy’s story, and obviously to many middle-grade readers. What inspired you to include fashion design as such a strong motif in the book?

Lakita:  Well, I’ve had my own unhealthy relationship with fashion—wanting brands or types of clothing to fit in with a group or trend. But, I’ve grown into my own style, and knowing what I like as I’ve gotten older—and now I know that what we wear can be a form of self-expression. Instead of using fashion to blend into a group, fashion can be used to stand out, and show the world who you are. Macy’s journey from creating clothing to look impressive to creating clothing to look more like herself paralleled her self-discovery journey nicely. 

Shari: I agree!  I remember this struggle being very real during those middle school years, so I’m thrilled that you included this as part of Macy’s growth!

I loved so much about this book! What do you hope will stay in readers’ hearts after reading Macy Weaver?

Lakita: I hope that readers will remember what lays the foundation of true friendship and community. The poet, Maya Angelou has this quote where she says, “People will forget what you said, or what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Macy said and did a lot of things to try to impress different classmates, but what really drew kids closer or pushed them away was how Macy made them feel. When she lied to them and they felt they couldn’t trust her, they distanced themselves. In the quieter moments, when honest conversations  are taking place and the children are being vulnerable with each other, Macy is making her peers feel heard, or understood—that’s when the threads of real friendship begin. 

Shari: I love that – and the sewing metaphor! For readers who love Macy Weaver, what other books do you recommend?

Lakita: Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson, and Worser by Jennifer Ziegler are awesome middle-grade reads that tap into the hearts of this age group. 

Also, there is an amazing middle-grade debut book coming this fall where the main character goes on a physical journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It includes many of the themes a reader will find in Macy’s story, but it is told in the most fantastical, magical way, and I literally couldn’t stop reading until I reached the very last page. So good! Marikit and the Ocean of Stars by Caris Avendano Cruz is inspired by Filipino folklore, and should be on everyone’s must-read list. 

Shari: These are fantastic suggestions! Tell us, what are you reading these days?

Lakita: Chester Keene Cracks the Code by Kekla Magoon, Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas and Nura and the Immortal Palace by M.T. Khan. I’m currently trying to get my hands on an early copy of Tumble by Celia C. Perez and Eden’s Everdark by Karen Strong! 

Shari: More awesome books!  I just read the first two and loved them! Can you tell us about what you are working on next?

Lakita: I’m currently working on my second middle grade novel due out next year. There are strong friendship elements in this next Middle-Grade as well, but something happens to the main character, beyond her control, that will affect how she views herself, how her friends react, and her community at large. For most of Macy’s story, she was actively making up lies to try to win a friend over. But, what happens when you already have the bestie, and a physical struggle changes the way your bestie sees you?   

Shari: I’m already looking forward to it!  Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Lakita: I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @LakitaWrites and I try to keep my website updated with new releases http://www.LakitaWilson.com

Shari: Thank you so much for chatting with me about your new book!  

Lakita: Thank you. I’ve been following the MG Book Village for years online so I was very excited to connect!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lakita Wilson is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts studying Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her middle grade manuscript won the 2017 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award. On Instagram, you can find her posting about black culture on her account @welovedthe90s, which has over 72K followers, and promoting diverse children’s literature on her account @lakitareads, which has over 25K followers. Lakita lives in Maryland with her two children and Shih-Tzu.

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