Cheryl Klein on writing a great book

Day three of my reports from the Austin SCBWI conference, and today I’m featuring the advice of Arthur A. Levine Books senior editor Cheryl Klein.

Earlier this week, we had two agents who were former editors: Mark McVeigh on the publishing industry and Andrea Cascardi on getting and working with an agent.

Cheryl focused her presentation on the elements of a great book. She started with showing Viviane Schwarz‘s picture book Timothy and the Strong Pajamas as an example of how story is rooted in emotion and how showing, not telling, is most effective.

She used Katherine Paterson‘s The Light of the World, a picture book biography of Jesus, to show that great children’s books speak to readers in their own language, such as calling Jesus’ Disciples “friends.”

She used recent release Eighth-Grade Superzero, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, to show that great children’s books should have characters capable of lots of different emotions, e.g. joy, pain, desires.

She used Francisco X. Stork‘s Marcelo in the Real World to show that great children’s books have characters who grow through their actions in the story; they have to suffer to grow.

And she used another recent release, Sara Lewis HolmesOperation Yes to show that great children’s books take risks and break rules, such as playing with point of view.

Sara joined Cheryl on stage to debunk some editorial myths. They said:

  • Editors aren’t just interested in trends; the books they are interested in is personal to each editor.
  • Revision is an important part of the process; editors’ jobs are to be ideal readers, telling authors what readers will want to make their books the best they can be.
  • And editors don’t know everything; sometimes there’s a give and take between the editor and author when they don’t agree about a change.

All good things to know.

Check in tomorrow for Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford.

Write On!

2 Responses

  1. vvdenman says:

    Soaking up this information. I want to click every book to glean more. Also, I appreciate the publisher tidbits at the bottom which help to put querying back in perspective.

  2. Thanks, VVDenman. Yeah, it’s like Cheryl gave us a what to read list out of the books she has edited. 🙂

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