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Coaching KidLit Podcast-Episode 9: Coaching KidLit–What We Do and How

COACHING KIDLIT EPISODE 9: COACHING KIDLIT: WHAT WE DO AND HOW: Christy and Sharon dive into Coaching KidLit and what exactly this book coaching thing is, which is not a very simple answer, but nonetheless an interesting one because, at its essence, it’s all about helping you write, edit, and polish your manuscript, so it’s the best it can be.


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Coaching KidLit Transcript

[00:00:00] Christy Yaros: Hey Sharon!

[00:00:00] Sharon Skinner: Hey Christy!

[00:00:00] Christy Yaros: Can you believe this is going to be our ninth episode?

[00:00:04] Sharon Skinner: Oh, my gosh, it’s gone by so fast.

[00:00:07] Christy Yaros: That’s almost nine months that some of our listeners have been with us. And, you know, we talk about a lot of craft things, but we never really talk about what exactly it is that is Coaching KidLit, which is the name of our podcast.

[00:00:25] Sharon Skinner: Well, I think we do weave it in, but we haven’t really focused on it. So I think that this might be a good opportunity to kind of delve deeper into that very topic. What do you think?

[00:00:37] Christy Yaros: I, I think that would be great because I get a lot of questions even from people that I know who know that I’m doing this, like, what exactly is this book coaching thing that you do, which is not a very simple answer, but nonetheless an interesting one, I think because there are so many things that we can do. And in fact, I would say with every client that I have had, I have done something different. Even if in essence, it’s the same thing we’re working on, getting your book to the best place that it can be. The road to that is, is different for each person.

[00:01:15] Sharon Skinner: Well, and that goes back to. First of all process is personal, but also where you are in your writing journey, it’s different for everyone. And the needs of each individual can be very, very different. They can be similar, but they can also be very different. I mean, again, it goes back to what, what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?

It’s recognizing what you’re really good at and being able to help you to even level that up, but also to help you identify where your areas of opportunity are and give you the tools and support to really level that up right?

[00:01:57] Christy Yaros: Hopefully that’s, that’s the goal, right? But why don’t we just, you know, I mean, process is personal and even though you and I do the same thing, we have both gone through Author Accelerator’s certification program, so we do have a similar base on that. But prior to coming to coaching, you had the editing and stuff that you were doing. I had the stuff that I was doing. You have your MA. I have my MFA. We both have our SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) stuff. So, maybe we came from different ways to get here, but still use the same base tools. So if somebody thinks they wanna work with you, what is the first thing that, they do?

[00:02:41] Sharon Skinner: Well for me, it’s, it’s definitely reach out and fill out the form on my website, which is

There’s an interest form. It’s labeled start your journey here. And it’s a very short contact form and it pings me and helps me to send out an email with a scheduler link. So we can have an initial call. So I like to have an initial call before we go and start to dig too deep in, and that’s a free consult.

That I offer in order to see first, if I can help you. And then if we’re a good match to work together, because it doesn’t help anybody to be in a miserable relationship of any kind. And you want to be in a very solid, very positive relationship, coach and writer, and that works from both sides.

How about you?

[00:03:38] Christy Yaros: Same. So if you go to my website, or also goes to the same place, I actually have it a little more automated, so we both use Dubsado on our back ends. But for me, you can book your appointment right there and the form is attached to it and, and it signs you right up.

But I also feel a conversation is, definitely necessary. I mean, I have a certain sense of humor. And if you don’t, you don’t think you can deal with me for hours and hours, then you should probably know that upfront. But also, writers don’t always know what they need. Our website tries to describe as best we can, what it is that we do, but objectively a writer might not actually know what it is that they need. So sometimes having a conversation is the difference between you thinking you need a developmental edit, which can cost thousands of dollars, and maybe you only need a manuscript evaluation, or maybe you need to go right into coaching, or maybe you’re not even ready yet.

I’ve had people that I’ve spoken to that I just didn’t feel that they were even far enough along with what they knew that I personally could help them.

[00:04:46] Sharon Skinner: Right. And that’s really the key, right? We wanna help people. The idea behind coaching is book coaching will save time. It will save energy. It will save a writer, a lot of heartache, a lot of headache because a book coach can support you along the way and help to keep you from going down the wrong path or the tangential path and keep you on track and keep you moving forward and motivated and support you in leveling up your craft game as you go along.

[00:05:19] Christy Yaros: Both you and I have been through the coaching process, ourselves with other coaches, I coached you. And I was coached by another Author Accelerator student. And I can say for sure that just the, the practicum that I did with that coach saved me years because I had an idea that was popping around in my head for a long time and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write it or whatever. And then, you know, I did the blueprint that we both do with our clients. I did that with another coach and I realized that my idea really was just an idea and wasn’t really a story yet.

And had I sat down and just started writing, I, for sure would’ve written myself into a corner that I probably would not have gotten out of. And would’ve just put aside a half finished, or probably not even half finished, partially finished manuscript that was gonna go nowhere.

[00:06:14] Sharon Skinner: Well, take it from someone who’s done that in a series that was being published and having written myself into a corner in book two, having to write myself out of it in book three, because I didn’t have a plan that can make a huge difference.

Not only in the writing and your ability to complete the work, but also in how much time it takes to do it. Because then I was like, well, I don’t know what to do. And I, find that with a lot of clients, they don’t know where they’re going next. That actually is one of the areas of opportunity, which is why the tools that we do bring to bear and the fact that we help them with the tools and, get them to sit down and focus on the tools. Because a lot of people are resistant to planning out what they’re gonna write next. Myself, I always felt like, oh, if I plot it out, I’m not gonna wanna write it cuz they know what happens next.

Because part of the joy in being a pantser, if you will, is the act of discovery. But what I wasn’t understanding is that the plot isn’t written in stone. And so I still get the joy of discovery because I get to discover more about the characters and more about the voice and more about the journey.

And none of that is written in stone, but it gives you a place to go so that you don’t end up going into a dead end. You can certainly veer off. So I always tell my authors, because I always like to equate it to like a road trip. Well, you have the, the map of where you’re headed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go visit the Ball of String on the way, to New York or what have you, but that you then wanna get back on the path so you can have a subplot or a side plot, but you wanna get back on the path in order to complete the arc and the journey for the character.

[00:08:08] Christy Yaros: I love that road trip analogy because I, I use the same thing. And, depending on how much of a plotter you are, and if you’re a panster, same thing. I mean, you kind of have to know where you want to go, but like you said, if I was going from Connecticut to, out west to visit you, like maybe I just know I’m gonna get from here to Arizona, but maybe, it’s gonna take me three days. And so I wanna stop here and here, or maybe I need to plan out every single stop that account for every single thing along the way. And that’s just a personal preference, but it doesn’t mean, like you said, if you’re driving along on the highway and you see your Ball of String, this exit does not mean you’re not getting off and popping over to see it.

As long as you know that you’re going to get back on and that it’s relevant. And we’ll just take that one too far. That metaphor a little too far.

[00:09:01] Sharon Skinner: Well, even if it turns out that it’s not relevant, it’s a detour and you know, it’s a detour at the time. So how you use it and how you approach it is different than if you just go that direction without knowing that you need to come back to your initial path.

So that side trip or subplot, if you will, you know, in the end you may write that out, but you may find some really lovely discoveries along the way that you’ll want to use in the story, or it may stick. It may be, Ooh, this is really super great. And I wanna keep this in here, especially if you’re writing series, because it may lead you to another component of the next book.

It may set something up really nicely. For another character or what have you, but at least, you know, you have where you’re headed. Point A, point B, and in between there’s all sorts of detours you can take, but ultimately you need to get back to point B. And when we do the blueprint, we talk about the tent-pole scenes, because, those are the key turning points for your character, but they can do a whole lot of stuff in between that. If you just wrote tent-pole scenes, it would be a pretty short book. So that’s one of the tools that we start with. Depending on where of course, and this goes back to where the client is, when they come in the door, wherever the writer is in their journey, sometimes it helps to go back and do a blueprint.

So when I worked with you on my blueprint for the work in progress that I’m writing right now, I had already written my way in. It’s a second book. I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know what my tent pole scenes needed to be. I knew point A, I knew point B. I didn’t know what the middle stuff is and the mushy middle’s the hardest, it’s always the hardest. And so when we went through the blueprint, and I was able to map it out. Just that exercise alone was helpful. But then having you question some of those components and say, well, what are we gonna find out here? And why is this here?

And how does this really matter? Because when we did the Inside outline. There were some areas where as the writer, it was in my head, but as the reader or the coach, you weren’t quite getting it. Right.

[00:11:25] Christy Yaros: Right.

[00:11:26] Sharon Skinner: And so sometimes that’s the exact feedback that I give to my authors, whether they’re planning or writing, I’m not getting it.

I think this is in your head. I’m betting that this is in your head. But it’s not on the page, so I’m not getting it, whether it’s in the plan or whether it’s in the actual writing and that’s something else that we can do. So we’re, especially when we’re doing ongoing coaching, we’re beta reading at the same time, in a sense, as they’re writing.

[00:11:59] Christy Yaros: Yes. And all authors, all of us we have these things in our head and when we sit down to write, it’s like the Meme you know, like the there’s one, that’s a photo of a tiger. What I see in my head? And then the drawing is, some kind of simplistic cave drawing that maybe a two-year old drew, because it never quite comes out onto the page, the way that it is in your head.

But your brain will still fill in for you. So when you read it yourself, you think that those things are there. And when a reader be it an actual reader, hopefully not by the time the book is published, a beta reader, a critique partner, a coach reads it and they don’t make that connection. It’s probably not that your writing is bad, not that you don’t know what you’re doing, but that your brain made a connection that wasn’t actually on the page.

And sometimes the fix is as simple as a sentence or two.

[00:12:51] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Or rearranging the information.

[00:12:56] Christy Yaros: But to know that before you’ve written out, 400 pages is, extremely helpful. And then to the end of the roadmap as well, those tent-pole scenes are pivotal things that have to happen, but also, we are making sure that they are on that cause and effect trajectory that we want to have our story have, and sometimes if you’re just writing without a plan, you tend to write, or I do when I’m writing without a plan, this happened and then this happened and then this happened, and then this happened and not really thinking about why, like is what we teach, right? The cause and effect is this happened, this is how the character reacts to what happened, and because of that, this next thing happens. And then this is how the character thinks about it, reacts to it, what they do next. And because of that, this thing happens.

[00:13:51] Sharon Skinner: Right. And being a person who writes from character and very character driven stories I still struggle with the other side of that. So if you write more of a plot and you have a story in mind, you tend to struggle with the inside of the Inside Outline, which is another tool that we use in the blueprint. We can also use it. I use it for some clients separately outside of the blueprint because that’s what they really need because they have plotted out a story or written an entire manuscript, but it’s not doing what it needs to do and they know that and they’ll come to me. And sometimes, like you said, they don’t really need a dev edit. They need a manuscript evaluation, and then they need some tools to fix the story and help the story along. So they come with the plot and they have a story, but they don’t have that inside component that emotional inside arc or character arc.

I tend to write from character. So I’ll have a lovely character journey, but I struggle with what are those plot points that are gonna push them into that journey? And, are those good enough? Are those hard enough moments, difficult enough moments for them to make the change? So I come at it slightly different just the way my brain works, but having the ability to kind of know what I want the emotional journey to be for a character, and look at the plot points and how to push their buttons to force them into that journey is the way I approach it. But some writers come from the other way. They have a story and they need to know what that emotional arc looks like. And we have to work on character and develop the character so that they have the character with the right traits and strengths and weaknesses, and misbeliefs to have that journey.

[00:15:46] Christy Yaros: Yes.

[00:15:47] Sharon Skinner: So we move from the planning. We can bring a client in, they can come in the door, they can have an idea and we can help them plan that out. We can help them flesh it out. We can have them come in with a plot that they’re not sure how to implement because they don’t have the emotional journey.

We can help them with that. They can come in with a character and this idea for an emotional journey, but not have a plot to go with. We can help with that. You know, from conception to final draft there are a lot of things that we can help authors with. I have authors at various stages that I’m working with right now.

I had a client come back to me after I worked with her on a first book, it was for her very first book and I mentored her through writing that book. And it was her first draft, but it was really more like a third or a fourth draft because we leveled up her craft as she wrote it and her structure and made sure that it was a solid story.

She’s come back and she’s writing another book and she basically said to me the other day, “The reason that I came back is because I looked back on my entire journey this last few years of writing and realized that I made the most progress when I was working with you.”

[00:17:15] Christy Yaros: Which, is so exciting, isn’t it? That’s what we love. Terry Pratchett said that “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” If your normal process is to do that via writing out a draft, if you worked with us instead, before you started writing, you’re telling me the story and I’m giving you feedback immediately as it’s happening.

And one of my personal curses is remembering almost every conversation that I’ve ever had and things that I have said to people and things that people have said to me, which does not always work out well for other people who cannot recall conversations that I very clearly remember, but is one of my coaching superpowers, because I can remember all of our conversations, and also, my brain just is anxiety brain, ADD brain. I don’t know. All of the above OCD brain is always thinking 10 steps ahead of, in life, everything. If this happens, then this is gonna cause that, and then that’s gonna cause that and thinking all the way down the line. So when I’m having conversations with my writers about, every scene, a character is faced with a choice and depending on which choice they make you’re getting into like multiverse territory here, right? Like I start here and if I make choice A, that spawns, this universe where all of these other things happen. But if I go with choice B that spawns that universe with all of those things happening and, and it’s like a giant tree just branching out and sometimes you can get so overwhelmed by the possibilities of all of the stories that you can tell, but you’re not trying to tell all of the stories. You’re trying to tell your story, your one story. And what does that mean? That takes up a lot of conversation. Because many of the things are viable choices. It’s just, is that the story that you want to tell?

[00:19:13] Sharon Skinner: I exactly experienced that with my clients and have to ask them questions. Sometimes they’re afraid to commit because well, if I go down this path, I can’t go back to this other path and you know, our brains will tell us, oh, but if you’re gonna write this story over here, you don’t get to write that story over there.

But you have to make a choice because as you said, you can’t write all the stories. I think my superpower tends to fall into the category of, I may not remember every conversation we’ve had, but I remember your story and I know your characters like they’re my besties. So I am focused on all the details of your story that lead up to a point.

And if your character says, or does something that is outside of who they are, I’m like, no, no, no, that’s not who they are, unless there’s a really good reason for them to behave like that, which clearly isn’t on the page, then I’m gonna be questioning that. I’m gonna be like, no, that’s not dialogue y our character would use. Your character would not act like that. Or they’re in this part of their arc where they should be at least a little beyond that attitude. What has caused them to back step? I think one of my superpowers is character because to me, it’s like having real friends and that’s how I’ve always felt about characters and books.

And I just know them intimately and they’re very familiar. And so that’s one of them. And then the other one is that I can remember the things that I read really, really well. And so when I’m working with multiple clients, I can keep all their stories separate. I can keep them all filed in different parts of my brain.

And when I was a kid, I read multiple books all at the same time. I just did. I would put a book down and then go read part of another book and I would have four or five books going at a time. So for me, it’s natural it’s as if I set myself up to be able to naturally work with four or five different clients on four or five different books at any given time and keep them all straight, which is kind of glorious.

But, again, process is personal and as coaches, we have our own superpowers. We have our own areas of genius that we bring to bear. You and I are both very, very couched in craft where we have a lot of craft foundation. We focus on craft. We we live it, we eat it, we breathe it. Craft is huge for us. It’s one of the reasons I feel like we can help clients with all the elements and help them to improve their writing, level up their craft, as I like to say, all at the same time.

[00:21:57] Christy Yaros: Yes. Which, for someone else is probably glorious because there are so many craft books out there. There are so many resources. There are so many tools. Wonderful. Wonderful things, but what the heck do I need right now? And how does that apply to what I am doing and how do I not personally fall down a rabbit hole of reading all of the things when I just needed to know maybe this one thing so that I could keep going with my story. That I think is another thing where we come in and it is helpful because in between sessions, I’m pulling resources based on the conversation that we just had and what I think would help you best. And maybe that’s an article. Maybe that’s a chapter from a craft book. Maybe it’s a webinar I come across. I mean, all the tools.

[00:22:49] Sharon Skinner: I do the same thing. I’m like the interface into the world of craft and I can take and isolate the components that you need right now, because there are thousands of articles and hundreds and hundreds of good craft books and techniques and tools and you can go to workshops and webinars and conferences, and that’s all great. And you always learn something at those. And I think they’re valuable. I continue to teach them and I continue to attend them.

And I continue to absorb more craft books all the time, but I am filling my hopper so that when I have a client who has a specific need, I can go, oh, there’s an article for that, that I just saw that’s perfect for this client. And I keep a list of those kinds of resources, as I know you do, or I have the books and I’ll go, wait, there’s a perfect way to articulate that for this client.

I’m gonna have them get this book and read this chapter because it’s exactly what they need right now. But if you’re at a conference, you get a lot of very high level, very general information. That’s great. And it’s good. And it’s solid. And if you’re in the right place at the right time, you’re hearing exactly what you need to hear based on the work that you’re doing and the level that you’re at, where you’re at in your journey, but they’re not focusing on you and your writing when you’re in those kinds of environments.

Whereas a coach, gets to know you and gets to know your writing and we know your story and we know where you’re at and we can pick and choose from this vast array of information what’s specifically going to help you right now, in this moment, with this piece of work.

[00:24:39] Christy Yaros: And that is different for, for every person and it’s different for the same person on a different day and, during a different project. I mean, the tools that are out there all have the same end goal to help a writer write a satisfying story that works and entertains and all the things, but personally Freytag’s pyramid doesn’t do much for me, just not my thing.

So, wouldn’t help me. I would need something else. I’m not even really a three act kind of person. And some of my clients are, and some of my clients aren’t. And so there’s no set structure to how something has to work.

[00:25:22] Sharon Skinner: Because process is personal.

[00:25:24] Christy Yaros: Right. But it’s a matter of finding what framework they’re all frameworks, what framework works best for you. And it’s exciting for me to help a writer make that connection to something where it’s like, oh, like that makes so much sense. I get this now.

[00:25:40] Sharon Skinner: And to your point, it can shift not only from project to project, but within projects. So I have an ongoing client I’m working with and she started in one place and we’ve been working together for some time.

She’s in a whole nother place and has different needs now for the project that she’s working on and for leveling up her craft, because we’ve already leveled her up, she’s leveled up a lot. And so now I’m, we’re taking her to the next level and, it becomes more nuanced. And if you’re looking at the pyramid structure, we’re working her up the pyramid in her craft. So we’re going from some of the needs in the writing that were more general or more, get the emotion on the page to now, let’s do more nuanced voice for your project. Let’s do more nuanced writing. Let’s shift this just a little bit. And so, again, it’s like getting a masterclass in writing, but not only that you are getting that one-on-one attention. So the masterclass is focused on your project and your needs at any given time during the process, which is cool. And I love doing it. It’s so much fun, but again, everybody, like you said, they come in at different places.

They come in at different levels, and we get to help them discover what it is they need, identify that and then give them the resources and the solutions to help them with that issue. And that’s a lot of fun.

[00:27:12] Christy Yaros: It is. I mean, clearly we love what we do or hopefully we wouldn’t be doing it.

So a question I have received is being embedded in SCBWI community, like we are, obviously we have a lot of colleagues who are not necessarily beginning writers. They’re not just starting out they have agents, they’ve published books, but there is still a place for us to work together because as we’ve been saying, there’s so many different things that we can do that, just the process, which is my favorite process, of somebody coming to you with just an idea and walking away with a solid plan to write it. Maybe you don’t need me to sit down with you while you write your actual manuscript. You can go off and do that on your own. Maybe you just need accountability when you’re doing that part, but that beginning process of working it all out and making sure that everything works and works the best way that it can before even putting any words on the page can shave months off of any writer’s process.

[00:28:16] Sharon Skinner: And weren’t you saying that you have a client that has an agent who wanted them to take an idea and changed the age category on it and rework it, and you are working with that client on that. Aren’t you?

[00:28:31]Christy Yaros: I am. And it’s super exciting. We just started working together, so I don’t assume this is gonna happen, but maybe it’s not gonna really work the way that she initially thought, but we will come up with a way. So like I have asked her, what are your absolutes? What is a non-negotiable for. Is it that this is it, this character, is it the theme? Is it the plot, the setting, whatever.

Tell me what it is that for you, no matter what, that has to stay. And then if everything else is negotiable, it’s how can we get what you’re trying to say. I feel like we become the stories advocate, right? Once you tell me what it is that you’re trying to do, that’s now my job, my responsibility is to make sure that you get there and that you’re true to what the vision was that you set out to do.

And maybe that changes, but then that’s a discussion that we have to make sure that you’re okay with that change before we move forward so that you are not wandering off somewhere on a tangent like me when I’m talking

[00:29:36] Sharon Skinner: And I think that’s the real joy of this work that we do is that we are able to help individuals who are at pretty much any place in the process, pretty much any point in the journey and we can help them to save time, be more efficient, get a better book out, be further, along in their drafting, closer to a finished product than they would if they just wrote on their own. And that’s joyful work for me.

[00:30:09] Christy Yaros: Definitely. And even with revision, I have a client who had a contract already with a book and got her editorial feedback letter from the editor, and then wasn’t sure how to implement it.

And so we discussed that. Again, if you make this change, here are all the things that this is going to affect. Is that the intention that you have, is that what you’re trying to do? And we worked out exactly how to go about the revision, and then she went off and did it herself.

I didn’t even read her pages, but it was just the, let’s talk this out, let’s figure out before I sit down and try and go through some of these sometimes 20 page editorial letters of how to best tackle this revision.

[00:30:55] Sharon Skinner: Well, because again, it’s a big world. It’s a big story. It’s a lot to have in your head and then you’ve created it all. And now somebody wants you to go in and change it. It’s a big story. It’s a lot. And then you’ve got this big editorial letter coming at you and you’re thinking, oh, I have to make all these changes. And some of that is, I don’t know where to start and how do I approach this? And we can help with that. And that’s great. It’s fun. We like it.

[00:31:23] Christy Yaros: It is even if it’s not our plan. Sometimes you do a manuscript evaluation or a dev edit and you help a writer see what they need to change. And we give them a plan on how to fix their story. And then a lot of times we will end up working with them through that revision and that’s one side of it, but also, if you have revision requests from somebody else just to help you execute it. I even have a client who just sends me pages every week and needs that accountability that I get the pages every week or they get in trouble.

[00:31:59] Sharon Skinner: Or you do a dev edit and you have an author who takes and runs with it and comes back and says, I did 99% of what you recommended.

And then they win a starred Kirkus review. And that’s really exciting too.

[00:32:13] Christy Yaros: That’s kinda a specific example, Sharon.

[00:32:18] Sharon Skinner: But it’s exciting when it happens. We love that. And we love when someone gets published and we love when someone gets a book out and when they start to get good reviews if

shared in that work and supported that person, we feel like, or I feel like that, some of that is my success as well. And I want all of my authors and my clients to be successful.

[00:32:40] Christy Yaros: I think that is definitely a good goal to have. So if you are listening and anything that we said here resonates with you and you think that maybe you might need some form of services from book coaches, such as ourselves.

You can again, find me at or And you can find Sharon at…

[00:33:05] Sharon Skinner: And we always talk about an actionable item and this is our actionable item today for you. Go out, take a look at what we do and see if maybe we’re offering something that could help you. And if nothing else, hit us up for a consult call and see if we can work together because maybe a book coach is exactly what you need for where you’re at, right now.

[00:33:34] Christy Yaros: And maybe you think, oh yes, I need a book coach, but I could not stand being around Christy or Sharon for that long, then hit us up and we can connect you with somebody that you connect better with. Though, I don’t see that happening because we’re awesome. And of course you wanna work with us, but, you never know.

[00:33:51] Sharon Skinner: Well, this has been fun. And I think it, we were due to talk a bit deeper about what it is that we do in the world as but coaches and what we offer. So thanks for hanging out, and thanks folks for listening.

[00:34:06] Christy Yaros: And we will be back next month with something more craft focused. Thank you for joining us.

[00:34:14] Sharon Skinner: Bye.

[00:34:14] Christy Yaros: Bye.



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