7:30 BELLS Guest Post:: "Risk is When the Bells Chime Loudest" by author Margery Cuyler

Following is a wonderful post from author and legendary children's book editor Margery Cuyler.  I had the high honor of having worked with her on several of my  fantasy novels. 

I hear bells chiming when I experience what I like to refer to as a “mandorla” experience. Mandorla is the Italian word for “almond,” and the almond shape has been interpreted by Carl Jung, Robert Johnson, and other psychologists as a symbol for the overlap of two contrasting, opposing forces that occur simultaneously. When one finds oneself standing in the center of the overlap or mandorla, one feels extreme tension, but . . . that tension of the opposites can lead to transformation and renewal. One can sense that God is present in those moments of suffering, and if one is patient, if one prays and trusts, the solution will usually emerge. 

This mandorla experience has happened every time I’ve been at a crossroads in my life: to leave or not leave a loved one who provides a safety net, to go from being single to being married, to become a mother of three even while working full time, to change jobs when a new job opportunity challenges one’s comfort level, and so on. These mandorlas that punctuate life involve risk. But risk is when the bells chime the loudest! 

 And how about the mandorla experience in a writer’s life? For me, I decided recently to leave the safe haven of writing picture books, which have defined me as an author, to writing a YA (still in progress). As I wobble into the territory of character development, I am discovering that my characters have to experience the mandorla. What is at stake for them? How do they experience two different emotions at once? What causes them to change? The mandorla is a writer’s place. Don’t all writers try to make sense of the fragmented world in which we live? Don’t our characters long for a place where they can finally settle and experience unity? Can I, as a fiction writer, reach that place of synthesis by the end of a manuscript? 

Great writers have accomplished such leaps as they’ve united the beauty and the terror of existence. Their talent and psychological insight, their characters’ verisimilitude, can surprise and shock--can teach that the tension of opposites, the mandorla experience, is the stuff of good writing. I may never get there, but at least I’m exploring new literary territory, and that’s exciting!

Margery Cuyler has been part of the children’s book field for the past 45 years. Aside from holding executive positions at Holiday House, Golden Books Family Entertainment, Macmillan, Marshall Cavendish, and Amazon Children’s Publishing, she has written 49 children’s books and has a 50th book under contract with Random House. She retired from full-time publishing at the end of 2013 and is currently consulting, writing, and doing school visits. She and her husband, the parents of two grown sons, live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Margery also has a stepdaughter who paints pets for a living. They are really cool. For more information about Margery, visit

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