Coaching KidLit – EPISODE 26:
Navigating Emotional Topics in Middle Grade with Author Karen Chow
In this episode of Coaching KidLit, Christy and Sharon discuss the process of writing and publishing emotionally challenging KidLit with guest, Karen Chow. Chow, a middle-grade novelist and engineer by day, opens up about her debut novel Miracle, in which she explores tough subjects such as cancer, grief, and emotional recovery. Chow shares her experiences from college until her book’s publication, as well as insights about her creative process. She provides advice to aspiring writers, emphasizing the importance of vulnerability in writing and self-care during the process.
Karen’s Debut Middle Grade Novel:
00:00 Introduction to the Podcast and Karen Chow
01:42 Discussing Karen’s Debut Novel: Miracle
03:09 Exploring Tough Topics in Middle Grade Literature
03:34 The Inspiration Behind Miracle
05:16 The Writing Process and Challenges
10:09 The Journey to Getting Published
21:20 The Impact of Miracle on Readers
30:16 Advice for Writers Tackling Difficult Topics
33:53 Teaser for Karen’s Next Project
39:15 Conclusion and Contact Information
Sharon Skinner: Welcome to Coaching KidLit, a podcast about writing and publishing good KidLit.
Christy Yaros: We dig into various aspects of writing craft through a KidLit lens and provide inspiration and clear, actionable items to help writers like you move forward on their KidLit writing journeys.
Sharon Skinner: Hey Christy.
Christy Yaros: Hey, Sharon.
Sharon Skinner: How are you?
Christy Yaros: I’m good. How are you?
Sharon Skinner: I’m good and excited because we have a special guest this month. We have Karen Chow with us today she started writing novels as a college sophomore at Arizona State University while earning a degree in, electrical engineering. She’s an engineer by day and a middle grade novelist by night. She lives in Gilbert, Arizona so she’s one of my SCBWI members and she’s also part of my EI Team and I’m so happy to have her here. Karen is represented by Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency, and her debut novel, Miracle, is out and available for readers. Welcome, Karen. We’re so happy to have you here.
Karen Chow: Thank you, Sharon and Christy. It’s really nice to be here.
Christy Yaros: So, Karen, we wanted to talk about handling tough and emotional topics in middle grade and we thought you would be perfect for that since, hey, you did that.
Karen Chow: Yes, I did.
Christy Yaros: Do you want to tell us about the book Miracle?
Karen Chow: Miracle is about an 11-year-old violinist who really loves to play the violin because her father loves the sound. And when he’s very sick, he has had cancer for her entire life she technically wasn’t supposed to be born, and so she’s his miracle, and, he eventually passes away, she loses her ability to play because of the emotional toll, and she struggles to find her sound again, she has trouble connecting with her mom, and she has trouble with her friendships because they don’t know what to say, and
eventually, when she visits a therapist, the therapist helps her realize like you can’t just pretend everything is going to be the same. You have to realize that life is just going to be different. But, as she’s realizing that, she finds joy and hope through, the therapy, and she’s able to recover her sound, and that’s the miracle.
Sharon Skinner: That’s fabulous. we are seeing a lot more difficult topics being handled in middle grade than we used to. there’s a lot of things that kids are dealing with that we didn’t used to see being written about at this level. This book, I think, is a fabulous contribution to helping kids understand how to handle something of this nature.
Karen, tell us a little bit about the impetus for writing this book.
Karen Chow: there’s two big ones that I usually tell the students, the first one is, I heard this Bible story about this man named Simeon. who was supposedly, like, really, really old, and he would go to the temple every day and wait to see Jesus, he would just wait there all day, didn’t see him, went home.
Next morning, he would go there again and just wait to see Jesus. when he finally actually met Jesus, he’s like, Okay, my life is complete. I can die in peace. And so, I just thought, what would happen if a little girl fulfilled her life’s purpose very early on in her life. then what happens next?
that’s kind of where the story started. I took a lot of my own experience. my dad passed away when I was a senior in college at ASU. I put a lot of that same emotion into the book, and some of my experiences, and Amy’s dad, Amy is the main character, her dad is very similar to my dad, so it’s kind of like a therapeutic way to talk about grief very far past his passing point. So, I wrote it, 13 years after he had passed, so it took a while to process things, and cope with things before I was able to actually write about it.
Sharon Skinner: And I’m going to ask you, I know that you had some time to process, and you had some distance from this very, very difficult thing, and I’m so sorry that you lost your dad when you did. It’s, that’s so, so hard. But, when you were writing the book, you had to pull up those memories, that memory of grief and all of that.
And I know that yes, it’s cathartic, but it can also be difficult thing to reach in and access those emotions. Do you want to talk a little bit about that for us?
Karen Chow: Sure, so the original draft, had a lot of flashbacks that were basically autobiographical, the structure of it was, it started in the present and then she would flash back to when he was first starting to get really sick and then they crossed so that when he actually passed, she was getting to the end of her story and recovery.
those were Difficult to write. some of them were fun to write because it was like pulling from my memory of what I remember my dad being like and his hopefulness and he was a very, charismatic person. Like he had a good sense of humor, even though he was sick.
My dad died of pancreatic cancer, so by the time, he got diagnosed, it was like six months, and then he passed away, so it was pretty quick. Some of those memories were really easy to write, and to pull from, the original draft didn’t have the funeral in it, I avoided some of the harder emotional, scenes, and so, my editor gave me an R&R, before I actually was on contract, she’s like, I want a different timeline, I want it to be happier, I don’t want it to focus on dad so much, I want it to focus on mom, because mom is the one who has suffered the same emotional toll.
And I was like, oh, okay. And then she’s like, and I also want the funeral scene. That was difficult to write. Lots of tears. Lots and lots of tears.
Christy Yaros: So, in your original draft, was she still the same age? Did any of that end up changing or the length of the illness?
Karen Chow: Um, no. All of that pretty much stayed the same. My editor wanted the timeline to be: the first act is his decline and passing away, the second act is her depression and grief, and the third act is her healing. She wanted a different structure, she wanted the relationship between her and her mom to be patched up throughout the book, as opposed to focusing on the loss of dad so much.
Christy Yaros: So, it’s more about balancing the heaviness of that emotion with keeping it hopeful because it is middle grade.
Karen Chow: Yes, and I do remember. When I was first, querying that first draft, a lot of agents came back saying it’s just, too sad, the pacing is a little bit off, and it’s probably because it was so heavily focused on her looking back and longing for that past instead of, processing and healing and getting hopeful and moving forward.
Sharon Skinner: But I assume that you needed to write that first draft for you Look back and do that processing of looking back. I’m sure that was a big part of the process.
Karen Chow: Yeah, I do think that first draft needed to be written, what it was, it needed to be written, just because when I finally got feedback from my editor, we were on sub, and there was a long period. When my agent and I got feedback from my editor, there had been quite a long time.
Since I had actually read it, been invested in it, and so when she asked for changes, I was like, okay, no big deal. As opposed to, when I was first querying, I submitted to, there was this online contest called Pitch Wars, this author mentor contest, and I was chosen for that, and my mentors were like, well, what are you open to changing?
And at that point, it was still really fresh, and I told them I don’t really want to change the flashback scenes because they mean so much to me. Versus later, over a year later, when the editor wanted changes, I was like, okay, no problem.
Sharon Skinner: So, you were able to get some distance from, the attachment to that material in order to make it better.
Karen Chow: Yeah, for sure. getting an agent takes a while, and then getting an editor also takes a while, so I think that long, time between was actually really good for me.
Sharon Skinner: Do you want to talk a little bit about that process of getting your agent and then getting an editor? I mean, your editor asked for an R& R. Did your agent ask for an R& R as well, or how did that work for you?
Karen Chow: okay, so I had been querying and one of my critique partners said, oh, there’s this new, author mentor, contest called Pitch Wars. It had a really successful history where an agented author or somebody who had been through the revision process before with a professional, would, mentor, a chosen mentee for about two months.
They would basically act like your editor. they sent you an edit letter, you had to revise within six weeks, then they did a line edit and you had to revise in two weeks. at the end of two months, there was an agent round where lots of agents had attached themselves to the program.
All of these pitches would go live, and the agents would like pitches and what materials to submit to them. I was chosen as a mentee under Cindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill. They were a pair. along with Remy Lai, who’s very successful now. they revised with me.
I went through the whole process, got a ton of agent likes at the pitch part, sent tons of material out, and then got all of the rejections back, saying, the pacing is weird, it’s too sad, just not right for me, like, a lot of subjective stuff too, like, this is not the right voice for me, that type of thing.
and so, I was like, okay, I have to revise again. After revising heavily for two months and crazily for two months, and so I went back, and I started revising again to try to make it a little bit more lighthearted. There was another Twitter pitch contest highlighting, diverse authors. And so, my mentor, Cindy Baldwin, had gotten her agent through DVPit and she’s like, Karen, your book is kind of quiet like mine. It deals with a very serious topic. She’s like, I think this is going to be the opening for you.
And so, I had a due date because pit only happened twice a year. And so, I think it was in April, of 2018, I think 18. And so, I finished revising. did the DV Pit Twitter contest. My agent ended up liking my pitch, I sent her materials. There were other agents too, but she ended up offering her representation, which was very exciting.
And then we went through, I think a couple basic rounds of editing, like she wanted, some of the friendships to be a little bit more rounded and solidified between Amy and her two best friends. and then there were a couple other things that I can’t remember, but it was a pretty basic edit, like it wasn’t an overhaul at all.
Then we went on submission, got a lot of rejections, my editor Christy Ottaviano said, I really loved her voice, but I have some reservations. If you don’t get any other offers, please come back to me. And so, we waited maybe like four months and got all of the rejections.
There were a couple outstanding, and my agent Andrea Cascardi was like, I don’t think we’re going to hear from them. So, let’s go back to Christy. Went back to Christy, Christy said, here’s my edit letter. And it was a complete timeline change, complete theme change, and at that point I was ready to revise.
And so, it took me about seven months to rewrite the whole thing. then, I did a sweep edit with. my agent, and we sent it off it took Christy a couple months to get back to us and she was like, you did exactly what I wanted you to do. So, here’s your book deal,
Sharon Skinner: Nice.
Karen Chow: the success story.
Sharon Skinner: So, you took seven months, you took your time with it, I’m sure it was a pretty extensive letter, which is nice, but also a lot of work. And when you say you did a sweep edit with your agent, are you talking about just a cleanup or a polish?
Karen Chow: It was basically a polish. she looked at Christy’s edit letter and said, you missed this part where she wants you to connect her American-ness versus her, Taiwanese-ness. she wanted a little bit more conflict there, so I added that in. we totally went off the edit letter and, tried to hit everything that Christy wanted.
Christy Yaros: but that also means then you agreed with the changes she wanted you to make it still felt like a story you wanted to tell, even though a lot of it was different.
Karen Chow: Yeah, for sure. I think the emotional journey of Amy, her love for her dad, her loss of her dad, her recovery all of that is still in the book. it just looks different because of the timeline change.
Sharon Skinner: You go back to the difficult emotional topics that we’re now seeing in middle grade and, dealing with that, you are also still processing. throughout it, you are finding new ways to address.
the emotional aspects of what you went through, in a way that is, accessible for middle grade readers. Yes?
Karen Chow: Yes. when I wrote it, it was obviously much heavier. and then when I revised it, like, it’s still heavy in certain spots. it’s a sadder book than a regular middle grade book that my kids read. but yeah, I think I had to consciously lighten things, especially like in the middle act where she’s in grief and depression.
I had to have, another friend read over it because I was like, it just feels like the same. she was along her same line, instead of going up and down and up down, she was just kind of trickling along the same sad line, my friend Leanne Young, who’s actually my agency sister, she was like, I can help you, she had just lost her dad, and, It was a good fit that she could read for me really quickly and help me, pointing out that Amy’s conflict is, like, Laughing and having fun with her friends, but then feeling bad about having fun with her friends because her dad is gone and she shouldn’t feel that way, but she wants to feel that way.
So that conflict, I brought that out because of her suggestion, and it actually lightened things a little bit better.
Sharon Skinner: That’s great because it really touches on the fact that we can’t have all one emotion or tone through a big chunk of a novel. We have to kind of move through the emotions because that’s what we do as humans. We move through our emotions. We’re also capable of feeling more than one emotion at any given time.
It’s important that we can display that for our characters as well. It humanizes them and makes them a lot more accessible.
Karen Chow: Yeah, for sure.
Christy Yaros: So how did you use, music and Harry Potter are those also personal experiences of yours? Or is that something you created for the novel?
Karen Chow: I’m a fan of the Harry Potter franchise and the books I grew up with music, so I used a lot of that background to put into the book. I mean, the music part, was more natural because Amy is a violinist, her world is music, her best friend, Rio, is obsessed with music, so that part came pretty easily, Amy compares a lot of life to, musical terms, and so I just started the musical term as a metaphor for, how she’s feeling, and so that was pretty fun to do, and then during revisions, with my editor, she was like, well, I want you to frame the chapter in the theme of the term that you use in that chapter. And I was like, oh my gosh, my brain is gonna explode. Because it’s so, because it’s like, if it’s a crescendo and that’s what, you know, that’s what she’s using for just that moment. But that meant this whole scene had to crescendo and crescendo means getting louder into something into something, into something, and so I was like, oh my gosh, this is hard. And so, um, so the music part was pretty easy to weave in because of my music background. I played piano from age five, and then I played all the way up to high school, and I played flute from fifth grade. Oh man, I still play sometimes.
I went to ASU, so I still go to homecomings, once in a while, and other music instruments that I’ve played. That part was easy. The Harry Potter, I can’t remember why I put it in, but I do remember thinking, she feels like him. Because he’s famous for his parents’ sacrifice, and she’s famous because she has a dad who’s had cancer her whole life. That’s where I drew that parallel.
Sharon Skinner: I love the idea of using the musical metaphor. I have a poetry background, so anytime you can use metaphor and, imagery. it really resonates with me. I think that it also gives you an entryway into things that you might not otherwise have.
Karen Chow: Yeah, I was a little bit worried like people wouldn’t get it, because it’s so heavily music, but the reception has been pretty good.
Christy Yaros: Well, it’s such a great way to develop your character and give us that showing Instead of the telling of feeling that anytime you can make like sort of personal metaphor for your character like that. I think that you added a whole other layer to your story in a way for your readers to engage with it without it feeling so, just like music, which would go up and down. She’s going up and down. I think it works great as a metaphor for grief.
Karen Chow: Yeah.
Sharon Skinner: I love that. You know, you have all these terms in there, but if you give it to us in context, of course we’re going to understand it, even if we’re not musicians, right? We’ll learn what those terms are at a deeper level, right?
Karen Chow: Yeah, that’s my hope. I hope that gets across.
Christy Yaros: What kind of response have you gotten from readers?
Karen Chow: Amy’s best friend Rio is a composer, and so he composes a song in the book, and he wants her to play it with him as a duet.
I had a reader who asked me what does this sound like? And I was like, I don’t know.
Christy Yaros: What do you think it sounds like?
Karen Chow: What do you think? I kind of like, I alluded to oh, it’s frilly and playful and sounds like a river. and so, she was like, well, what does it exactly sound like? I was like, well, I’m not a composer, so I can’t really answer that question.
And then the feedback at schools, with kids who haven’t read it yet has been fun. they see an Asian American author who’s different. they sometimes ask me What is this? How do you say this in Mandarin? Or are you famous?
Sharon Skinner: They always ask if we’re famous and then they usually ask how much money we make.
I love that you have a reader who asked about that composition in the way they did, because it makes me believe that they believe that Rio is a real person.
You did a great job of making your characters real. That’s fabulous.
Karen Chow: Yes. I’ve had, adult readers respond with, like, thank you so much. I just lost somebody, and this was very, cathartic and helped me get through it. So that’s been really nice too.
Christy Yaros: Along those lines, and that is so lovely to hear, but knowing that you wrote about something deeply personal to you, as much as you were able to remove yourself from it through the revisions, Getting published, doing edits, doing copy edits, going on marketing and going to schools meant that you were going to have to talk about this a lot for many years to come.
Did that have any bearing on what you were doing or how does that feel to have to keep stepping into that space?
Karen Chow: I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. I mean, I did, but I didn’t. I don’t think I really realized what it meant to be, published and in the public eye. And, I think at my book launch, I ended up crying because I was like, Oh my gosh, I can’t. I was talking about the story, and it just was overwhelming.
But, as I talk about it more and more, it becomes a little bit more, like, unconsciously scripted, talking about something so painful and so openly. I think because you’re repeating a lot of the same information, it doesn’t feel as deeply impacting as the first time.
Sharon Skinner: That makes sense. we have to open ourselves up when we’re writing that kind of emotion on the page and we’re digging into those deep personal things. We really have to open ourselves up to it because if you shut yourself off and you stay in your head, it’s going to show. The reader’s going to know.
Letting people in. it’s a level of vulnerability that is required to do that. I think that sometimes it’s better to not expect or know what’s coming, once it’s out in the world, because you might close yourself off even harder If you knew what was coming and I think that overall, it sounds like though this has been a good experience for you.
Karen Chow: Oh yeah, it’s definitely been pretty positive, yes.
Christy Yaros: I still think it’s something that writers should keep in mind You were able to tap into that emotional truth and make that experience accessible for other readers, but it does mean that you have to keep reliving it and you were smart in that you waited until you were mostly healed from it, but it’s not something that like grief, is forever, right?
That’s kind of what you’re saying in your book, right? Life goes on, but it’s still gonna be a part of you. as much as you’re teaching readers that, you’re living that, too. So, I think that’s something that writers have to keep in mind, if you’re not in a personal space where you can keep talking about that and keep accessing that without harming yourself, then you should reconsider if you’re gonna write about something so close to home.
Karen Chow: I’ve been writing for a long time, I started when I was in college, and I’ve been part of several critique groups some were good and some were not as good I feel like when you’re sharing something so personal, you want to make sure you’re sharing with people you trust, they’re not going to tear you down because of what you’re writing, but how you’re writing it.
I think that’s important too. But if you are writing something really personal, you do need to keep in mind, like, you said, Christy. you are gonna have to talk about it and reopen that same emotional wound over and over again.
Christy Yaros: Yeah, but it sounds like your editor, you have a lot of wise Christies in your life, your editor was great to help you remove yourself more from that equation to be able to tell a more resonant story for middle grade readers that gave you more of a buffer.
Karen Chow: Yeah. I don’t know if she knew it was from personal experience. she’s a gentle editor and she’s good at what she does for a reason. she’s able to encourage you, but also, expect more from you too.
Christy Yaros: Yeah, as book coaches, Sharon, I’m sure you come across this too, you know, we don’t always know if the people that we’re working with are writing from personal experience. sometimes you can kind of tell, usually when it feels so resonant, that comes from somewhere.
And some people are great at taking an emotion and completely changing the whole story they present to us, and we’d never know what they were actually writing about. But a lot of us, especially beginners, tend to write things that are closer to home, and that’s a balance we have to tread between.
Like, we’re not therapists. And so, you know, asking Is this personal? How can we help you write about this? And for what you were saying, you still got to tell deep down the story you were trying to tell, while being able to change some of the surface.
Karen Chow: Yeah, the emotional impact is all still there. It’s just the story rearranging had to happen. it stays true to the original story. So, I was happy about that.
Sharon Skinner: I agree with Christy. sometimes we can tell right off, but it can cut both ways I’ve had clients who can’t get close enough. to the emotion because it is too painful and it’s hard for them to go there, we have to be gentle and nudge them and know when not to push any harder but at the same time they have to get that emotional resonance, that emotional truth on the page or the book’s not going to go anywhere for anybody else, it’s not going to connect.
So, there’s that balancing act of making sure that I’m pushing, but not too hard. And again, not a therapist. I do have clients who have both me and someone else that they are working with, who helps with the emotional piece of it, and I’m helping with the writing piece because I’m just a book a therapist.
Karen Chow: Not a therapist.
Christy Yaros: But how much more it means to your readers that you went through that, even if you never said that to them. because you’re showing them that grief can look like different things and maybe they’re feeling things that they don’t have names for yet because they’re younger readers.
You’re showing them these things and you can’t really do that unless you really understand. It yourself, so it’s like a double-edged sword.
You’re bleeding yourself on the page.
Karen Chow: it’s true. when I was first starting to write, they were like, don’t be afraid. And my, one of my critique partners, Mary Lambert, she also says like, don’t be afraid to go there. And sometimes that’s the hard part because I’m okay with writing emotions.
I’m okay with writing, you know, I’m okay with that. Happy pretty sentences, but sometimes I can see myself pulling back a little bit like oh, she’s not gonna be that bad. When in reality she really does need to make those poor choices. so, don’t be afraid to go there.
Christy Yaros: I mean, you said that even about writing the funeral that you didn’t have that in your original draft,
Karen Chow: yeah, the funeral was not in the original draft at all. it didn’t happen until I think even after the rewrite, it wasn’t in there until after my editor was like, you need to put it in, in developmental edits. And I was like, ugh, fine.
Sharon Skinner: Because you didn’t want to go there,
Karen Chow: I didn’t want to go there because it’s so sad.
Sharon Skinner: So, what kind of advice do you have for other writers who are writing difficult topics in, especially for, younger readers, but across the board? what would be some key pieces of advice that you would give?
Karen Chow: one, don’t be afraid to go there. And then, um, I think, okay, so I also heard that the first couple drafts are you trying to figure out what you need to tell versus later drafts is you telling it to the reader. in those initial drafts, I wouldn’t even hold back because you can always edit it out.
You can always smooth things out, make it more palatable for a younger reader, but just get it out the first few drafts and then you can always edit it later. when I was writing the first few drafts, I was already toning down and making rules for myself of how Amy’s voice sounded.
I wasn’t using big words. I was using shorter sentences. those things helped me pare down the big feelings a little bit more.
Sharon Skinner: That makes sense. And I love that you say, you know, you can always Pull it out, pull back, revise, because as we know, writing is rewriting. Revision is part of the process. We’re not going to get it right the first time. We’re not going to get it perfect. In fact, well, perfection is a silly thing to even aim for.
Karen Chow: I wrote the first draft of Miracle during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month in November, and I think that also helped too, because I was writing so fast and just spitting it all out at once, that I didn’t have a chance to revise what I was doing, and I think that also really helped me.
I don’t know if NaNoWriMo works for everybody, but for me, for that draft, it definitely helped.
Christy Yaros: now that you’ve written and published a book with such a heavy topic, do you feel like that is something that you need to continue? one of my writing partners Wrote a heavy YA and then the next book she wanted to write something light and they were like, no Right.
We want this from you again. And she’s I just spent three years in this like I need something light Well,
Karen Chow: that is the conundrum I have discovered with lots of debuts. during our waiting period, because there’s several months, even years between final acceptance of a draft and. actual publication. we all wrote something in between I had written something just as emotional, I think. it was more of a divorce story because I had just gone through a divorce and was like, well, I’m just gonna be my own therapist and write about my experience. and then my editor took a look at it, and she was like, well, I think you’re doing. Too similar? Too similar to what Miracle did so she wanted something different.
some of the other debuts wrote something similar, but then some of them also wrote something lighter. a LOT of us, our editors rejected that second novel. And wanted to work more closely with us, on what comes next.
my editor was like, well, Karen, you are very unique in that you are an engineer and an author. I think people need to read about what you do. so, my next book is about My job. With some of the emotional stuff family dynamic stuff added in, so it’s similar and different.
Sharon Skinner: Is it still middle grade?
Karen Chow: It’s still middle grade,
same target audience,
Sharon Skinner: Interesting. Um, we got a little tease on the next project there. Hmm.
Christy Yaros: Well, I mean to be fair music math there it’s
Sharon Skinner: engineering,
Christy Yaros: you’re there in the same kind of nerd space.
Karen Chow: the same brain space.
Sharon Skinner: I think it’s important for our listeners to know that your debut is one thing, and you expect maybe your next book to be a thing that, comes out of you and then you get told that, yeah, we don’t want that from you right now, we want something else.
And that’s got to be hard, but it’s part of the commercial side, the business side of being published.
Karen Chow: Yeah, if you want to work with that editor, then you kind of have to follow what their imagined path is for you.
Sharon Skinner: I’ve really appreciated hearing about your journey and hearing about all the aspects of dealing with these, you know, this difficult topic. And thank you again for revisiting that with us and opening yourself back up to that. We always leave our audience with an action item. So, what action item would you offer to our audience for how to, approach writing difficult topics?
Karen Chow: based on what I said today, I would say try fast drafting, a difficult emotional time, maybe try National Novel Writing Month, which occurs every November, but they also have Camp Nano, which occurs in April and another one in June, thousands of authors joining together and sometimes they’ll have live meetups, and it’s just nice to know that there’s a bunch of other authors doing it with you, and yeah, I think like trying to spit it out as fast as you can is very therapeutic and very helpful.
Sharon Skinner: That’s great. And my action item for anyone writing difficult emotional topics would be to make sure that you are providing yourself with some self-care, give yourself the opportunity to give yourself some distance, allow yourself to, to go through your emotions and your feelings.
And back off from the writing if you need to for a little bit when that happens, but do open yourself up as best you can, because as we know, and as Christy alluded to earlier, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. Those emotions are things that are universal, and that’s what makes our work resonate.
So, in the meantime, make sure that you are taking care of yourself. If you need to talk to someone, be that a support, a supportive friend, or family member, or even a therapist. Allow yourself the grace. to give yourself some self-care.
Christy Yaros: That’s excellent advice. So, I have a two-part thing. One, I would say, yeah, sometimes realize that, as we also said, maybe sometimes you are writing it for yourself, give yourself the opportunity to write it, and then take a step back and maybe realize that this was something you needed to write for you to process what you were processing and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a book that someone else sees.
And if you kind of feel that way, then see, like Karen did, what is it about this story that I really want readers to take away from it and what things can I change to put a barrier between you and what you wrote and try some exercises change the character the actual situation that happens or the setting to keep those things like what you said, the mentors asked you, what are you willing to change?
And what are the things that are what we call the non-negotiables? Like what has to stay in that story for it still be the story you’re trying to tell? And what can you change to still get at that? That’s a very long-winded action item. But there you go.
Sharon Skinner: I think that’s a great action item. it will be very helpful for our listeners. Karen is a musician, but her character plays a different instrument. So, there are ways to give yourself some distance between you and the character, and still get at that emotion that needs to be in there.
Karen Chow: Yeah. And just to add to that, Amy is not who I was when I was a kid. And so, she’s a different character. And so, I think that also helps too. exactly what Christy says, you’re changing something about the character or about the setting, that also helps too.
Sharon Skinner: Well, thank you so much for being here, Karen. It’s been a pleasure to hear about your journey and to talk to you about this difficult topic, and to hear about your book. And we’re so excited for your book to do well in the world. So, we wish you very well on that and on your next book, which you have teased me about.
So now I’m very interested.
Christy Yaros: So where can we find you?
Karen Chow: I have a website, it’s kchowrites. com, so k c h o w r i t e s dot com. And I’m also on Instagram at the same handle, k c h o w r i t e s.
Christy Yaros: your book is coming out in paperback this year. So, we can pre order that now if we wanted to.
Karen Chow: Yes, I just found out. It was so surprising. Somebody else told me, they’re like, did you know? I was like, no.
Christy Yaros: Ah, publishing!
Karen Chow: It’s coming on in September.
Sharon Skinner: That’s exciting.
Christy Yaros: thank you so much for being here with us thank you all listening, and we will see you next month.
Karen Chow: Thank you for having me.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of Coaching KidLit, a writing and book coaching podcast for writers who want to level up their KidLit writing game. For more about us and to discover what a book coach can do for you, check out coachingkidlit. com and follow us on social media.
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