In which my book is released, and I am grateful ~ A reminder about ordering ~ A Q&A on quietude ~ A royal new title from Arthur A. Levine Books ~ My upcoming events ~ Five links ~ and a picture of the Marlster.
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And, dear readers, I confess I have lost a little of my much-vaunted chill from last month's newsletter. People are going to read it soon! They will use it! They will JUDGE! Oy. I am doing my best to ignore that fact and thinking about happier things, like tomorrow's book launch at the Strand in Manhattan, and the Bookmarks Festival this weekend in North Carolina, and how very pretty the book looks on the shelf . . . 

It's also nice to think about how the book came to be. As a download of pretty much my entire editorial brain circa April 2015, The Magic Words is the product of every book I ever read, every class I took involving narrative, every conversation I had with friends analyzing our differing takes on a story. I have a long list of acknowledgments in the back of the book, including my husband James and the Marlster, and I mean every word. But the book's actual existence in the world can be traced to six people in particular:

My grandfather, Philip Sadler. My late Papa was a professor of children's literature at what is now the University of Central Missouri, and the founder of its Children's Literature Festival. Thanks to his influence, I grew up with an endless supply of books and hungry for a literary life, which led to my study of literature in college and eventually my job at Scholastic. He paid for the design costs on Second Sight, and while he passed away before the final book was produced, he knew that it was dedicated to him. I keep the picture below in my office, taken for a librarians' magazine in, I think, 1983; our t-shirts say "WRITING IS HARRD WORK," and I'm grateful I was able to become a published writer, thanks to him.

My parents, Alan and Becky Klein. My mom and dad encouraged me to read, gave me the freedom to be my dorky book-loving self, and supported my education in Minnesota and my move to New York City (both big departures from Kansas City). When I self-published Second Sight, my mom became my warehouse manager, overseeing my stock of books and shipping them out as necessary for the last five and a half years. If there is such a thing as "parental privilege" -- the undeserved good luck of being born to terrific parents -- I have it in spades, and I'm endlessly grateful for their love and care. 

My boss, mentor, and friend, Arthur A. Levine. In August 2000, I came to New York to interview for publishing jobs, and the legendary Susan Hirschman of Greenwillow Books put me in touch with Arthur, who was seeking an editorial assistant. I had a terrible, terrible interview with him because I was so desperately nervous and (as a Harry Potter fan already) I wanted the job so much; but he recognized my nervousness and was kind enough to let me write some sample reader's reports, which won me the position. From Arthur I learned how to analyze a manuscript, take apart a picture book, communicate with authors, write a reject letter and flap copy, advocate for a project in-house -- all of the hundred little things editors do every day -- and I still learn from his bravery, his tenacity, and his absolute faith in beauty and the reader's emotional experience. (And he's an author too; look for his new picture book, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!) For my editorial education and the opportunity to be a part of the publishing world, I'm grateful to Arthur. 

My agent, Brianne Johnson. Bri called me to pitch a manuscript in November 2014 and mentioned how much she liked Second Sight, and I blurted out something like, "Do you think you could sell a revision of it?" There was a brief pause where I knew exactly what was going through her brain: Hmm, good book, but self-published, so it's been out there.... No national distribution or e-book, a good platform, solid reviews.... All the thoughts a smart publishing person would have in assessing the project. Then she said, "Let's get together and talk about it," and that started a marvelous ongoing relationship. Bri has wide-ranging and excellent taste, an eye for the unconventional, and joyful enthusiasm, which is a useful counterbalance to a slightly diffident author like me. (Another one of her clients is also publishing a book today, my Scholastic co-worker Rafi Mittlefehldt, whose YA novel It Looks Like This is a 2016 Indies Introduce selection.) Bri's faith and encouragement literally made The Magic Words happen, and I'll always be grateful for that.  

My editor at W. W. Norton, Amy Cherry. I talked with three editors about The Magic Words, looking for someone who would be as tough on me as I can be on my authors, and when Amy said, "Oh, I'm very hands-on," I knew who I wanted to publish with. She line-edited the book in depth, pushed me to rewrite one troublesome essay multiple times, and with her design staff crafted a beautiful, perfect package for the book. For taking me on and talking me through my own book's publication, I'm grateful to Amy. 

If you read The Magic Words, please know that the hands, hearts, and minds of all of these people have touched the book and helped make it what it is. If you like it, remember them; if not, well, you can blame me entirely. I hope very much that you do enjoy it, and it will help you write your own good books down the line. Thank you, as always, for your time and attention.

Happy reading and writing,


Reminder! (Do Mind Here!)

If you purchase The Magic Words by 12:01 a.m. on September 10th -- this Saturday -- you can enter to win a full manuscript critique from me. Just e-mail your proof of purchase to with the subject line


You can also still send along a question to be answered in this newsletter, as below. For retailers, full details, and terms,
see my blog post here
Q&A of the Month 

Q. Is there a market for quiet books or do they all have to be LOUD to be signed? -- Gary

A. Hmm. What I would say is, we are in a very crowded book market, with, if I recall correctly, 300,000 new books published professionally in the United States last year alone. In such a market, books have to stand out in some way, in order to give both booksellers and our end consumer -- the reader / book buyer -- a reason to purchase the book. That method of standing out could be the book's exciting plot, its unusual subject matter, its marvelous writing, its author (as brand-name authors like John Green or Linda Sue Park have enough of a reputation to stand out no matter the nature of the book itself), any gimmicks that are built into it (like the photos in Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children) . . . Whatever might distinguish the book to a librarian flipping through a catalog or a child surveying a shelf. 

In practice, the most common method by which a book stands out is its book's plot, because it's the element of writing we can all talk about most easily, and opinions about what makes "marvelous writing" differ so widely from person to person. If your book doesn't have a LOUD plot -- if its events are pretty everyday -- then you need to make the characterizations and delineations of those events as rich and meaningful to us readers as they are to the characters themselves, and then the quiet everydayness will become LOUD because we love your people so much and we're so deeply invested in what happens to them. (I'm thinking of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell here, Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca L. Stead, and Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.) Such a book can definitely sell -- both to a publisher and to readers -- and even be more beloved than loud books, because the experience of them is so much more intimate and precious. However, if you aren't a writer who goes into that much literary depth, it might be better to concentrate on developing a louder plot.  
New Books I Edited, Out This Month

KING BABY by Kate Beaton
All hail King Baby! This picture book from the creator of the New York Times bestselling Hark! A Vagrant! and last year's brilliant The Princess and the Pony celebrates the esteemed ruler of the title in all his darling and demanding glory. If you do not laugh at this book, you have either never met a baby or you have no sense of humor, and I pity you in either case. For people who do have a sense of humor, this is THE book to give to expectant parents, older siblings-to-be, webcomic fans, or anyone who enjoys fine picture books. Out on September 13; 
Upcoming Appearances

September 7, 7 p.m.:  Strand Bookstore in New York City. I'll participate in a panel on writing and publishing great children’s and YA books with Alvina Ling, VP and Editor-in-Chief, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Mallory Kass, senior editor, Scholastic Press; Brooks Sherman, agent, the Bent Agency; and moderated by Eliot Schrefer, author of many excellent books, including the National Book Award nominees Endangered and Threatened

September 10:  The BookMarks Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I’ll give a presentation on “Writing for Kids and Teens” and participate in two “Slush Pile Live” sessions (aka first page sessions), as well as doing a book signing. Details here and full schedule here.

September 13:  New York Metro SCBWI. I'll moderate a panel called “Crossing the Desk:  Editors Who Write," a panel featuring Daniel Ehrenhaft, editorial director, Soho Teen, and author of many YA novels, including The Wessex Papers; Andrea Davis Pinkney, editor-at-large, Scholastic Press, and author of many books for children, including A Poem for Peter:  The Story of Ezra Jack Keats; and Jill Santopolo, editorial director at Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, and author of many middle-grade books, including the Sparkle Spa series. We’ll discuss the pleasures and challenges of doing both editorial and authorial work. You can buy tickets here.

September 20:  Cass County Library in Belton, Missouri. My hometown book launch will also be a fundraiser for the Cass County Public Library Foundation. 

September 21:  Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Missouri. I’ll give a presentation and sign books. 

September 27:  Park Slope Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn, New York. Presentation and signing.  

October 19-23, 2016:  LeakyCon in Los Angeles.
Five Links

Gene Luen Yang's Reading Without Walls Challenge is a terrific, easy, concrete way to bring more diversity into your daily reading. 

Also on diversity, this time from the writing side:  "There Is No Secret to Writing About People Who Do Not Look Like You."

Matt Bird returned to the Narrative Breakdown recently for a discussion of "Misunderstood Characters" and how you can use that misunderstanding to suture readers to your protagonist and involve them in your plot. It's an excellent technique I'm already using in my own editing. Matt's book The Secrets of Story will be out in November, and I'm excited to read it in full.

I loved Mike Birbiglia's Six Tips for Making It Small in Hollywood, which might speak especially to those of you who write quiet.

How hard is it to make a picture book? I was one of the judges for a contest among six Slate editors who tried to create one in an hour. (I tried to write my commentary to build in useful lessons.) It's really interesting to see that all of us judges picked different favorites -- a sign of how individual picture books especially are . . . 
To mark the end of summer, here's Marley in a happier time -- when he was allowed to go for a walk on our apartment building's front lawn (on a leash, as you can see). He enjoyed these explorations, but alas, we received a cease-and-desist letter from our building, informing us that no creatures were allowed on the little fenced-in strip of lawn . . . no matter how handsome they may be. 
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