Some Fun Facts
I grew up in a small town named Peculiar, Missouri, a few miles south of Kansas City. The town motto is “Where the odds are with you!”
My Internet username “Chavelaque” derives from my nickname in high-school Spanish class, "Chavela" (pronounced shah-VAY-luh), combined with the Spanish word for "what" -- que, which is pronounced "kay." It’s thus a goofy pun on “Cheryl K,” and it also appears in Lisa Yee’s So Totally Emily Ebers as the name of a fancy restaurant.
I appeared on “Jeopardy!” in July 2000. I took third place, but I won tickets to The Lion King.
My husband and I have a cat named Marley (full name: Bob Jacob Marley Monohan), though I frequently call him Mars, Marzipan, Marley Davidson, or the Marlster. He is vociferous and handsome.
My favorite books (that I didn't work on) include Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop by Chris Raschka; The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small; A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley; Possession by A. S. Byatt; Jim the Boy by Tony Earley; Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; and the complete works of Hilary McKay, Jane Austen, Jennifer Crusie, Dorothy Sayers, and Patrick O’Brian. As much as I read for my job, I still passionately love reading for pleasure, too, and will happily burble on about my current book should you ask.
A few interviews with me
Truth and Solutions: Roundtable on Equity in Children's and Young Adult Publishing, conducted by PEN America, with excellent co-panelists Fatima Shaik, Wade Hudson, Daniel José Older, Alvina Ling, and Robie Harris, March 2016
Four Questions with Publishers Weekly Children's Bookshelf about The Magic Words, August 2016
Miss Marple's Musings, a wide-ranging interview about editing and The Magic Words, March 2016
Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf on the publication of Second Sight
Pottercast (MP3), also about Second Sight
The Carleton College Voice profile about my work as an editor, March 2008
The Rusty Key, on my personal and professional experiences with Harry Potter
A profile on “Nightline” about my work on the Harry Potter books, July 2007
“Extendable Ears” interview on Pottercast #47 (MP3, 1:31:50), about the Harry Potter books (up to Book 7) and editing in general, July 2006
The Flap Copy
Cheryl Klein is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books. She is also the author of The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults (W. W. Norton); Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults (self-published); and two forthcoming picture books, Wings and Thunder Trucks. Prior to her work at Lee & Low, she spent sixteen years at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where she published a wide array of acclaimed titles for children, teenagers, and discerning adults, and served as the continuity editor for the last two books of the Harry Potter series. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be found online here and as @chavelaque.
Thanks to both nature and nurture, I am a total children’s books nerd. 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 college graduation, and I gave my first talk on craft at a writers’ conference fewer than nine months after that.
From August 2000 to January 2017, I worked at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. There I was involved with everything from cheerful picture books to thoughtful young adult novels to the last two books of the Harry Potter series. I moved to Lee & Low Books in March 2017, where I work closely with the four other editors on staff in creating wonderful children's and YA books specifically by and about marginalized groups, especially people of color and Native people. (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 for the machinery — how I articulate the instincts and knowledge about fiction I’ve gained over sixteen-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. I decided to revise it, and that became The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults, which was published in September 2016.
I also write picture books, and my first text, Wings, will be coming out in Spring 2019 from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, illustrated by Tomie de Paola. My second, Thunder Trucks, co-written with my best friend Katy Beebe, will be published in Fall 2019 by Disney-Hyperion, illustrated by Mike Boldt. You can read more about the ideas behind and writing of both of these books here.
If you enjoy the information you find on this site, you should check out the Narrative Breakdown podcast -- now on indefinite hiatus -- which I frequently cohosted alongside producer (and my husband) James Monohan. Some of my favorite episodes for children’s and YA writers include:
Scene Structure, with a close look at a key scene from Casino Royale
Advanced Writing Techniques with E. Lockhart
Writing Middle-Grade Fiction with Jill Santopolo
Query Letters with Katy Beebe
Romance and Relationships with Kass Morgan
Literary Agents, featuring my own agent, Brianne Johnson of Writers House