The Strand Bookstore, a jewel of Greenwich Village, hosted a panel on children’s and young adult publishing on Wednesday, Sept 7, starring executive editor and author Cheryl Klein’s instructively enriching latest novel, “The Magic Words.”
Released the day before the panel, “The Magic Words” is a captivating guide for rising writers. Cheryl Klein puts dreams into focus with a step-by-step, intricate exploration of the character-constructing and agent-seeking journey that authorship entails. She explains the developmental process of revision, encourages diversity and distinguishes between middle-school and young adult novels. “The Magic Words” is a masterful account of experience and an indispensable addition to the bookshelf of all aspiring children’s and young adult fiction writers.
The panel included Kass Morgan, editor and bestselling author of “The 100” trilogy; Alvina Ling, vice president and editor-in-chief at Little Brown Books for Young Readers; Brooks Sherman, an agent representing young adult and children’s fiction at The Bent Agency; and of course, Cheryl Klein, executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic and author of “The Magic Words.”
When asked what she thought counted as “good writing” and how authors could make it work, Klein responded, “What I look for is the author’s creation of emotion within the character as well as within the reader… When I read a manuscript I keep a plot checklist. What is the plot? Where is the inciting incident?”
Sherman also offered up some advice on the topic — “When you’re writing to tell the reader something more about the world, driving the plot and creating a character simultaneously — you’ve got it. The three have to be done all together, not one after the other, or your writing will sound choppy… It’s also important to avoid cliches: not everyone winks when they’re mischievous!”
Morgan then commented on the unexpected challenges of being both an editor and a writer. “It was like leading people through basic training and never doing the obstacle course. I’d like to say my experience editing helped, but it didn’t! I was so defensive. I guess it’s kind of a human thing.”
The panel itself was an illuminating look into the particular challenges that face younger writers who are trying to transition from simply a writer to an author. Resources are all too often scarce for those without connections and a few more years under their belt. It was refreshing to dive so deeply into not only Klein’s book but also the advice of the rest of the panel.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12 print edition. Email Khrysgiana N. Pineda at [email protected] An earlier version of this article has been updated to reflect that the author of this piece is Khrysgiana N. Pineda, not Jordyn Josephine Fischer.