Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 7, 2016

Book Giveaway: The Magic Words – Cheryl Klein

The talented executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Cheryl Kline has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with her new book for writers titled, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults. It is sitting on my desk and it’s jammed pack with everything a writer would need to improve their skills. I know I am impressed. Available on Amazon.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

the-magic-words

BOOK’S DESCRIPTION:

This master class in writing children’s and young adult novels will teach you everything you need to know to write and publish a great book.

The best children’s and young adult novels take readers on wonderful outward adventures and stirring inward journeys. In The Magic Words, editor Cheryl B. Klein guides writers on an enjoyable and practical-minded voyage of their own, from developing a saleable premise for a novel to finding a dream agent. She delves deep into the major elements of fiction—intention, character, plot, and voice—while addressing important topics like diversity, world-building, and the differences between middle-grade and YA novels. In addition, the book’s exercises, questions, and straightforward rules of thumb help writers apply these insights to their own creative works. With its generous tone and useful tools for story analysis and revision, The Magic Words is an essential handbook for writers of children’s and young adult fiction.

The Backstory

Thanks to both nature and nurture, I am a total children’s book dork. My grandfather was a professor of children’s literature and founded one of the nation’s first children’s author festivals, so I grew up reading kids’ books long after it was socially acceptable to do so. I decided I wanted to go into publishing while I was still in high school; I read Publishers Weekly at Carleton College (where I majored in English, of course); I became an editorial assistant within three months of my graduation in 2000, and I gave my first talk on craft at a writers’ conference fewer than nine months after that.

I’m now the executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of the children’s and young-adult publisher Scholastic Inc., where I’ve worked on everything from cheerful picture books to thoughtful young adult novels to the last two books of the Harry Potter series. (For more on the books I’ve published and what I’m looking for, please see the Editorial Work page.) I think of my work as an editor as being a mechanic for stories: I take books apart, examine their component pieces, and help my authors assemble them again as more elegant and polished machines. My writing for writers, from this point of view, is the instruction manual that comes with the cars — how I articulate the instincts and knowledge about fiction I’ve gained over fifteen-plus years of working with writers and their books.

In 2005, I started a blog, Brooklyn Arden, and put up a few talks on the first iteration of this website. The two sites quickly became popular among writers, and in April 2011, I self-published a collection of my best speeches and blog posts, entitled Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. The book went through four printings, but as the years passed, I found myself writing more material and refining and deepening a lot of my thinking about the major components of fiction. My new book, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults, thus shares some key concepts and a few talks with Second Sight, but it is about 75% different from the first book, with a clearer structure, new essays on everything from the elements of writerly talent to writing diverse characters to what makes a great first chapter, and revised presentations of my core ideas about character and plot. I hope readers will love it just as much as the first book. (I think they will love it more.)

INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL:

What was the inspiration for this book and when did you decide to make it happen?

In 2011, I self-published a collection of my conference talks and blog posts under the title SECOND SIGHT. The book sold steadily, but as the years passed, I discovered I had more to say, and I also wanted to revise some of my original ideas. However, my life and responsibilities had changed since 2011, and I realized I wanted to find a traditional publisher for any revision. A literary agent expressed her admiration for the book one day, and I more or less blurted out, “Do you think you could sell a revision of it?” She said yes, we talked about it, and I wrote up a proposal, which sold in about a month.

How long did it take to write this book?

The revision and additional writing process took about eight months, from March to November 2015.

How did you start? Did you outline the subjects and lay everything out before starting to write?

Writing the book proposal forced me to describe how I hoped to reorganize, reedit, and add to the material in SECOND SIGHT, so I made a lot of my initial decisions there. Once the book sold, I compiled the text I’d described in the proposal, read it through, & basically wrote my own editorial letter on it, saying, “This is how I think I should revise this further.” My editor gave that vision of it her blessing, & I embarked on that revision.

Do you feel all the conference workshops and talks helped you prepare for bringing together this book?

As many of the essays in the book are based upon my conference talk, yes, certainly!

Do you feel that in writing SECOND SIGHT, you learn things that made this a better book?

I’ll say I learned things from the reviews of SECOND SIGHT that shaped this book: that readers wanted less repetition and more organization in the material, and they really appreciated the practical tools I provided — charts, checklists, etc. That encouraged me to add more such tools in THE MAGIC WORDS.

Was it hard to come up with all the great excerpts that you included to help make your points?

In many cases, they were passages I’d long admired or used in teaching, or that I’d edited myself, so it wasn’t hard at all! In others, I had to look for material that would demonstrate a particular point . . .  which was a lot of fun, actually, to dig through old favorites and new books to find the just-right illustration of an idea.

Did anyone help come up with the writing exercises in the book?

Some of the exercises are inspired by other people’s work, and my husband talked through the “how to develop an idea” chapter with me.

How much research did you have to do?

I consulted a number of writers and writing instructors on what they’d hope to see in the book, and I did a lot of additional reading on topics where I struggled to articulate complex ideas coherently–voice and race, basically.

What was the hardest thing you had to do to make this book shine?

The hardest essay to write in the book was the piece on writing outside your own cultural perspective, as it’s a topic that requires a lot of thought, understanding, and nuance. That essay went through multiple approaches before it found its final form.

It was also an interesting challenge for *me* to be edited…. When I got my first line-edits back from my editor, I felt terrified reading them and absorbing all the judgment they implied. Then I remembered that as an editor, I’m not interested in judging a book’s author; I’m only interested in making the book *work*, and all my edits are always designed to get the book to work. That helped me relax and revise in a better frame of mind.

Being the talented editor that you are, did you still feel the need to have other readers critique and edit this book?

Yes, definitely! Beyond my editor at W. W. Norton, the lovely middle-grade novelist Linda Urban was kind enough to read and give feedback on the text, and six or seven people read various iterations of the cultural-perspective essay.

Did you have a vision for the cover or did you leave that to the person you hired to design the book?

My editor at W. W. Norton was kind enough to consult me about what I’d like to see on the cover, and I said that I didn’t have any specific ideas, but I’d appreciate something colorful, friendly, and  sophisticated. She took that back to the designer in-house, who delivered a gorgeous cover, in my opinion.

Last, but not least, do you see another book about writing in your (and our) future?

If this one does well, I imagine I’ll have enough new ideas to do a revision in another five years! And I recently sold a picture book manuscript to Simon & Schuster, which will be published in 2019.

cherylklein

Cheryl Klein’s Bio:

Cheryl Klein is the executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where she edits and publishes books for children, teenagers, and discerning adults. She is also the author of The Magic Words:  Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults (W. W. Norton) and Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults (self-published). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and cat, and can be found online here and as @chavelaque.

Cheryl, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thank you Kathy and Cheryl for giving us a glimpse behind the curtain of writing, publishing and book selling. And thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this amazing book!

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  2. Looks like a great one to add to my “writing inspiration” shelf!

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  3. This is a “must have”! _Second Sight_ is on my shelf and needs this one as a companion!

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  4. This sounds like a book I need!

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  5. Sounds like a great book I could really use. I’m interested in her essay about writing outside of your cultural perspective.

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  6. Great interview and interesting journey to publishing this new book. Sounds like one all writers should have.

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  7. another great book!
    https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D733578936791928%26id%3D704352283047927&width=500

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  8. Looks like a great book for craft!

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  9. Sharing and caring..to read!

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  10. Definitely a book I need to have! Thanks for hosting the giveaway. I’ve tweeted about it too: https://twitter.com/eisen5585/status/806561254982713348

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  11. Reblogged this on Anita Nolan's blog.

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  12. Can’t wait to read it, Cheryl! Thanks!

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  13. Just got this from the library and taking my time reading it–so much great info to absorb! Thanks Cheryl and Kathy 🙂

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  14. What a great interview, and the book sounds wonderful! I look forward to reading it.

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  15. This should be a great bookresource for aspiring writers of children’s literature.

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  16. Great interview and beautiful cover! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

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  17. Curious about writing outside your culture.

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  18. Reposted on my author page as well.

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  19. Looking forward to adding this to my shelf, Cheryl.

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  20. Sounds like a good addition to my book shelf.

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  21. I’m a big Cheryl Klein fan. this book is amazing! I’m reading it right now, so I don’t really need to win it, except that it would make a great gift for one of my writer friends!

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    • Sue,

      It really will make a wonderful gift for any writer. I have bought one for a friend and plan to make a permanent home on my desk for it.

      Kathy

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  22. Hi Kathy,

    This is a great book to be giving away! I love Cheryl Klein. How do I go about offering my own new book, THE WOLF’S BOY, (Disney*Hyperion 2016) for a giveaway? It has received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist, Is a Junior Library Guild Book Club book for this month, and was just named by Kirkus to their list of best Middle Grade books for 2016.

    I look forward to hearing from you! Oh, and can you list my website? Thanks!

    Best, Sue http://www.susanwilliamsbeckhorn.com

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  23. This sounds like a good resource!

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  24. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book. I’ll share on FB and twitter too.

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  25. I’d really like to read this! Thanks for posting, Kathy!

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  26. Love “Second Sight”, so I’m ready to read this one as well! (I like the falling snow on this website too 🙂 ) I tweeted…

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  27. I’ve heard many positive comments from those who have read your latest book. I look forward to reading it!

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  28. Thank you for a fabulous giveaway! I love Second Sight and cannot wait to read Magic Word. Really fun hearing the background for this book too!

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  29. Oh, I would love to win this book! I shared on Facebook and Twitter.

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  30. This sounds like a fantastic resource. Thanks for sharing it!

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  31. I’m half way through this book, and it has been excellent so far!

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  32. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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  33. Sounds like a great read. I personally love sitting down with a book that helps me to continue writing. And the writing prompts (often offered) are fun!

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  34. This was already on my list. I’m curious about your take on the author-as-outsider perspective. It’s sure to be good. I enjoyed Second Sight and your podcasts. 🙂

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  35. I’ve read a lot of buzz about THE MAGIC WORDS, am sharing this post on my crit group’s Facebook page, and seeking it out at the library, while waiting to see if I win my own copy. (If not, I’ll purchase it anyway!)

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  36. This book looks fantastic! I’ll share on Twitter and Facebook too 🙂

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  37. Cheryl is the MOST amazing editor! I bought SECOND SIGHT when she first released it and it’s amazing! 😀

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  38. Cheryl is amazing. I’ve heard her speak on writing.

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  39. Would love this on my book shelf. Thanks for doing this interview and giveaway!

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  40. A must have. Cheryl is ever a top voice for writers to gain insight and hone their craft.

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  41. I look forward to reading The Magic Words. I loved Second Sight.

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  42. I took the book from our library because the Word by Word Book Club Facebook group is going to study it starting in January. I’ve looked through it…fabulous! And this interview has given me so much insight into the how and why it got written. Thank you so much, Kathy and Cheryl, for the opportunity to win my own copy…that would be incredible!

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    • And I will post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 😉

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  43. Wow, sounds like a great resource! Thanks for sharing.

    Like


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