Today I’m talking with Amy Kurtz Skelding. She is a middle-grade author and creator of the KidLit Drink Night podcast. She’s super nice and funny and the ringleader behind the amazing podcast that will keep you laughing so hard, you won’t realize how much you’re learning along the way.
Amy, we’re big fans of your podcast and so excited to talk with you today!
Thank you for your kind words and thanks for having me! I’m excited to talk with you, too.
You’re used to being the interviewer—now it’s your turn to be in the hot seat! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a middle grade fiction writer, obsessive book lover, and podcaster. My favorite books to read (and write) are children’s books of all shapes and sizes. I also love classic British and American fiction, classic horror, and contemporary Southern fiction.
Some of my earliest memories are of books and storytelling. I had an imaginary friend growing up who, for some reason, was a full-grown adult. I tried really hard to convince my family that she was real, even though I privately knew the truth. I didn’t want them to know that I knew the truth. It was important to me that they believe my lies. It drove me nuts when my family would try to poke holes in the logic of my stories of what we two were up to together. So I tried even harder to make her life more believable.
And that, my friends, is how a writer is born.
How did KidLit Drink Night get started?
In my community, a group of local kidlit writers gets together once a month to hang out, grab a drink, and maybe talk shop. There are a few other informal, in-person gatherings like this around the country, too. Since writing is a solitary business, these gatherings are often the only place writers can socialize with other writers, no pressure.
I am lucky to be able to hang out with such wonderful and funny and smart people on a regular basis, and I thought about those unfortunate souls who perhaps don’t have access to such a community nearby. So, for the folks who don’t have an in-person kidlit community, I decided to bring the antics to them via a podcast.
What does KidLit Drink Night bring to the writing community? How is it unique?
My hope is that it brings just that: a community. Having access to people trying to do the same difficult things that you’re trying to do is the best way to grow and stretch as a creative person. Also, since we’re off the clock, we don’t have to be quite so formal in the networking process. If you learn a bit and laugh a lot, my job here is done.
Any dirt you want to give us on the other hosts?
I’ll never tell! What happens at KidLit Drink Night stays at KidLit Drink Night. (Except for the bits I record and broadcast out to the entire world via the website, iTunes, and Stitcher.)
What do you enjoy about interviewing other writers?
As an avid reader as well as a writer, I love to dive into discussions about the characters and worlds these writers have created to get them talking about these things as if they actually exist. That’s the kind of reader I am: the more I commit to believing in the world, the more fun it is for me. So, when I get writers in my studio, I love getting them to disclose even more about the worlds they created, so it becomes even more three dimensional to me.
I also love hearing about the books the author has loved during the course of her lifetime, because in my opinion, it opens a window into who she is as a person and what has informed her own writing. I especially love it when we hit on a shared book crush, like discovering we have the same birthday.
Sometimes I momentarily forget that we’re doing an interview and I slip into conversation mode. I try not to cross the conversational line into full-on fan-girl mode, but it’s bound to happen. It’s hard to suppress the inner geek.
Does your background in broadcasting and communication come in handy?
I believe it does, insofar as it taught me to both be in the moment with my guests as well to be mindful of my audience at the same time. My non-broadcasting experience in the corporate world also comes in handy, when it comes to cracking the whip setting the agenda and trying to keep my co-hosts semi-on topic.
Part of the charm of KidLit Drink Night is in the tangents. I mean, cannibalism, peanuts in Coke vs. Pepsi, which of you would survive an apocalypse and why. These are all great moments of your podcast, but I hear you’re a master editor. What’s your process and how do you decide what to cut and what will resonate with your audience?
I don’t know who told you I’m a master editor, but that was very kind to say! Editing is A LOT easier these days than when I went to college. Back then, there was only one computer editing station in the studio, and it was shared among all the broadcasting students. Most of us had to edit by hand using actual tape. I’m taking about using a razor blade to physically cut the unwanted audio out of the tape and pasting the two edges back together again. Can you even imagine the tedium?
When deciding what makes it into the podcast, I think about what makes me laugh. I like quirky, funny, and deep conversations, and the tangents are often all three. I did think long and hard about whether to leave in the cannibalism conversation on a KidLit podcast, but what’s life without a little risk, eh? And for those of you who haven’t listened to that episode, the topic was post-apocalyptic YA fiction, so it was sort-of germane to the conversation.
And by the way, if you haven’t tried peanuts in cola, you really should. It’s an experience.
Does podcasting help or influence your own writing? If so, in what ways?
It does! Since I have a non-writing muggle job, it can be hard to maintain focus on writing. Adding this podcast into the mix has kept my mind always churning on books and stories. Although it seems a bit counter-intuitive, I’ve been much more productive in my writing life since starting the podcast.
Can you tell us what types of things you enjoy doing or reading to inspire your creativity?
I try to read a wide range of children’s and adult fiction so I can fill up my brain with different possibilities. My favorite genre to read is middle grade fantasy, but I want to be sure I have a more diverse range of books in my queue to challenge myself and get thinking beyond my normal preferences. These days, I’m buying and reading books by authors who come from different backgrounds than me, and am exploring more graphic or half-graphic novels. I try to squeeze in some non-fiction from time to time, as well.
In my spare time, it’s important for me to keep active and do things with my hands so my mind can wander and explore. I get some of my best ideas while cooking or baking, gardening, or walking the dog. I’ve had major plot epiphanies while applying mascara, for some reason.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own podcast?
The most important thing to have when considering whether to start a podcast is a passion for the subject matter. There can be considerable learning curve in understanding the software and hardware aspects of the production process, but these things can be learned. You can’t fake enthusiasm for the subject. People respond to authenticity, and that’s what I’m looking for in a podcast.
Also, as with any big project, it’s important to be organized, have a vision for what you’re trying to create, and be flexible in the execution. And have fun with it! As Professor McGonagall said about the Yule Ball, we’re looking for some well-mannered frivolity.
What is your favorite advice for writers?
Ooooh, that’s a good one. One of my favorite writers to listen to with regard to craft is Stephen King, an author whose work is so scary I can barely read any of it. In 2003, he made a speech when he was the recipient of The National Book Foundation’s Medal For Distinguished Contribution To American Letters Award. I listen to or read this speech every so often when I need some strength to carry on. In the speech, Mr. King discusses the concept of writers needing to “find the truth inside the lie”. The idea is that although fiction is make believe, writers need to work hard to show the truth of how real people would feel and behave in similar situations, so as to fully immerse the reader. For me, it’s about being an authentic, honest writer above all else.
Anything I missed?
My blood type is O Positive.
(Amy and I learned that we have the same blood type. She suggested that we make t-shirts for the apocalypse to let people know how useful we are, so they don’t cull us from the herd. See how brilliant she is?)
Thank you so much for your time, Amy! We’re so excited to share your interview and to try applying mascara as a cure for writers block! KidLit Drink Night is one of my favorite podcasts, and I can’t wait to point others in your direction. Keep up the great work!
You guys are the best. Thanks so much for having me! Mwah!
Find KidLit Drink Night: