Amy Goldman Koss – SCBWI Presentation

Amy Goldman Koss – SCBWI Presentation

I knew I would like Amy Goldman Koss by her name. I mean, she’s an Amy. Ironically, it was in her presentation that I met a new writing buddy at…and she is also an Amy. What can I say, I have an affinity for the name. I was never one of those kids who wished my parents had chosen differently, I loved my Amy-ness and still do.

Amy Goldman Koss gave a great breakout presentation on writing age. And her advice is really, REALLY simple: Remember what it was like to be the age of your reader. Think of your character’s reactions as yourself at that age.

Writing for young adults? Remember the crappiness of high school and describe it in all its glory. Writing picture books for young children? Remember the simplicity and joy of learning something new and exciting every day. And writing for middle grade? Well remember that boy who said you had buck teeth and looked like a beaver and have your character spit a loogie on him. Yeah…that’s a little personal regression there.

Here are some writing prompts she gave us:

  • Remember where you read when you were the age of your reader
  • Look in a mirror and describe yourself when you were the age of your reader

I first heard this in Amy’s session, but heard it repeated again by Rachel Vail in another session. You need to know EVERYTHING about your character.

  • Do they eat oatmeal or Cream of Wheat?
  • Do they wear boxers or briefs?
  • Are they a vegetarian or do they eat meat?

Every random detail you can think of, make a note of it. It doesn’t necessarily have to go in the manuscript, but you need to know this about them to write them true.

I asked her about writing across gender. Her fantastic response: “It’s the same shit.” The minor differences: Boys talk less, boy characters don’t like to stand genital to genital (it’s shoulder to shoulder), and boys need to have something to do in a scene.

Stuff to keep in mind when writing for kids:

Everybody’s insecure

Your enemy is so clear if you’re the picked on kid. If you are popular it gets dicier.

Take the characters that you love and treat them like dirt.

If you find a character you are writing is getting stale, do a find and replace and change their name. You may find that a “Casey” acts differently than a “Rhonda.”

Teenagers are not and are never altruistic – they are only thinking about themselves. They may be thinking “how do I make myself look more altruistic” but that is not real altruism.

And when I met Amy around in the hotel later that night, after buying a copy of her book “The Girls,” she signed it to “One of the Amy Crowd.”

Swoon.

SCBWI Day 1 – The Afternoon

First afternoon panel – What makes me want to choose your book? Featuring editors Nick Eliopolis, Claudia Gabel, Brenda Murray, and Jennifer Rees.

I felt an immediate connection to Jennifer Rees. When providing her biography, she mentioned she began her book career working as a bookseller for a Joseph Beth bookstore in Ohio. When in college in Lexington, Kentucky, I spent many a weekend at our local Joseph Beth. It’s a great store and glad to hear it getting some props at a national conference.

Some of the questions posed by the moderator:

Which is more important, voice or plot?

  • Jen – voice
  • Nick – plot
  • Claudia – voice, because it comes organically through the manuscript, but plot can be worked on together between an author and editor

Name two books you wish you were a part of in the last 10 years

  • Brenda – the big foot biography (think it was called “In Me Own Words”); the biography of Claudette Colvin
  • Nick – The Hungry Games, anything by Jon Green or Scott Westerfeld
  • Claudia – What I Saw & How I Lied
  • Jen – A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; Speak by Laurie Hals Anderson

What are you looking for right now?

  • Nick – guy high concept
  • Brenda – something that teaches me information I didn’t know before (historical, modern, pop culture, scientific, any areas)
  • Jen – asks herself if it has commercial potential; will it have a wide audience?
  • Claudia – beautiful prose but also an author who can write fast; tween and teen mysteries

What are your pet peeves in submissions?

  • Jen – receiving a submission package that is not professional; cover letter is lacking, not a clear synopsis, all of these pieces are indicative of who you are as a writer
  • Brenda – not doing your research ahead of time. Why is your book different? What other books are out like it? What other authors write about this topic? What other publishing houses carry this type of work? You have to be as knowledgeable as possible.
  • Claudia – not seeing the author clearly in the cover letter/query letter. You need to put all of yourself into your work. The relationship is such a big part of the job and this is a chance to build it.

And the thing they probably wish they hadn’t told us but they did anyway.

They do (or do have their interns) read their slush. Brenda even mentioned that one of her first published titles came from the slush pile.

And your interesting fact for the day…a lot of the slush pile comes from prison!

Afternoon breakout panel – Writing Age with the extremely talented, personable, funny, and perfectly named Amy Goldman Koss.

I have lots of notes from this one too, so will do a separate post about it. But it was fantastic and I enjoyed her talk so much I bought one of her books and had her sign it at the wine & cheese reception later that night.

Day 1 –

New people met – between lunch and the sessions, about 8

Sessions attended – 4 keynotes and 2 breakouts

Books bought – 4

Ellen Hopkins burned

April Halprin Wayland girl coming in for a landing

Ann Haywood Leal Also known as Harper

Amy Goldman Koss The Girls