Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review

Have you ever wondered what thought processes run through an editor's head when reading a manuscript? How they are able to determine which manuscript could flop and which could be a hit? Cheryl B. Klein is senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and her book answers those questions. It is an amazing collection of transcripts from Cheryl's speaking engagements and blog and web posts over the past few years. Each chapter represents a different presentation or post, one being Cheryl's presentation to our very own Michigan SCBWI at the fall conference in October 2007.

Examples are one of the most helpful aspects of this book. Throughout the chapters, Cheryl refers to books she has edited and even goes into early revisions to clarify her points. Two chapters that can be especially helpful and fun to read are simply titled "The Annotated Query Letter from Hell" and "The Annotated Query Letter That Does It Right." She takes two letters point by point and shares how the letters are either a put-off or entice her to want more from the author.

Another large portion of the book is broken down into the four major elements of fiction: Point, Character, Plot and Voice. Great detail and time are spent on each element including discussion points and exercises meant to strengthen the writing of any manuscript. Picture book authors will benefit greatly from the chapter that details the process of writing a picture book, going so far as to create a manuscript and turn it into a picture book dummy.

She ends the book by summarizing information from previous chapters and pulls it all together into a wonderful revision guideline meant to encourage revision and provide simple goals that are achievable, not scary and unattainable. The book then ends as it began with a look into an editors' heads and the relationships they hope to form with their writers.

I recommend this to all children's writers on any part of the writing journey, whether it be young adult, middle grade or picture books. Definitely time well spent.

My review was originally published in the Summer 2011 issue of SCBWI-MI News. 

For more information on Second Sight, check out Cheryl Klein's website