A mother-son relationship turned into a book-writing partnership when a Harbor Day School graduate and his mother co-authored a study skills book that was released earlier this year.
Cindy Muchnick and her son, Justin, 14, will be signing copies of “Straight-A Study Skills: 180 Essential Strategies to Ace Your Exams, Boost Your Grades, And Achieve Lasting Academic Success” at noon on March 30 at the Barnes & Noble Metro Point.
Justin also popped into Harbor Day School on Friday to surprise his sister, who is a kindergartener and was student of the day.
“Justin is a valued member of the Harbor Day School community,” a school representative said in an email. “He’s not only a brilliant writer, but excels in all academic subjects and sports, particularly wrestling and soccer. We are proud of Justin and look forward to his future accomplishments.”
Cindy Muchnick is author of seven books, but the idea of partnering with her son began to form when her last book was published two years ago and the family was celebrating over dinner.
“Justin started flipping through it, making comments, making criticisms,” Cindy said. “I wrote this book on study tips, and I have this great writer right in my family. I should have had him read it before it was published.”
When she began working on the new book, she jokingly asked her son if he would help. He agreed, and her editor loved the idea of a teen-ager contributing to the book. So soon after Justin finished Harbor Day School last spring, and before he left for the Phillips Academy in Andover for boarding school, the two hunkered down in Cindy’s home office and began to work.
“We had four weeks to write the first half and six weeks for the second half,” Justin said. “We had an outline, and she’d start typing and I’d look over her shoulders or vice versa.”
The two worked well together, both agreed, other than Justin was a meticulous writer and editor who wanted to discuss every change.
“I would tell him, ‘Just change it, I don’t want to know why,’” Cindy said. “Harbor Day taught him so well. He’s an excellent writer. The galleys came, and this was the cleanest copy I’ve ever had.”
Having study guides include a student’s voice will make this book more accessible to its audience than traditional study guides written by educators, Justin said. (He used the words “accessible” and “educators”).
“It gives you the teen voice,” he said. “It certainly added an honesty.”
The two would have intense conversations, they said, about topics like whether it matters if you sit in the front rows of class. Cindy always maintained it does, and Justin finally came around and agreed.
“My husband would come in at night and tell us we had to stop,” Cindy said. They completed their draft before he left for school.
“It was definitely fun,” Cindy said. “It allowed us to build a relationship on a different level.”
Her son, Cindy said, probably could have written the book on his own.
“That’s my one regret,” she said. “He could have done it.”
Justin said he is working on a new writing project but declined to go into details.
Barnes & Noble Metro Pointe is located at 901 S Coast Drive in Costa Mesa.
Top photo courtesy of Harbor Day School; second photo courtesy of the Muchnick family.