We speak a lot about the mindsets, activities and creative processes of children’s book authors and illustrators, but rarely does the discussion delve into the work of those critical yet unsung heroes of the genre: editors.
“Emma Dryden has the rare ability to combine insightful overviews of the broad picture, combined with detailed suggestions regarding even the most minor points of a manuscript,” write Brett Brubaker and David Ford of Brubaker, Ford & Friends. “Her sensitivity towards authors and her vast knowledge of the marketplace are just what are needed to maximize a book’s potential.”
That is why she is our featured editor this week.
Here is what some of children’s literature’s top authors have to say about Dryden:
“Emma Dryden is a person of faith. She puts her faith in the power of story. Thanks to Emma Dryden, there are stories in the world, and stories yet to come, that are life-changing and life-affirming. Working with Emma is a way to find our deepest, funniest, and most profound stories. She’s the story maven.” —Kathi Appelt, author, THE UNDERNEATH
“When it comes to my relationship with Emma Dryden, none of the usual sentiments—“pleasure to work with,” “honor to work with”—quite fits. I suppose it would be closer to say it is a joy to work with Emma, whose insight and encouragement are quite honestly invaluable to me.”—Ellen Hopkins, author, CRANK; GLASS; IDENTICAL; TRICKS; FALLOUT
“Emma asked me to work for Simon & Schuster and I haven’t looked back. Her approach to my art has always been to just let me get on with it without interference, which I really appreciate. I count the Bear stories (written by Karma Wilson) as some of my best work, so thank you, Emma!”—Jane Chapman, illustrator, BEAR SNORES ON series
“I’ve been writing books for a very long time, and as far as I’m concerned Emma is the ideal editor: literate, intuitive, keen-eyed, with a great sense of narrative and character, and just the right mixture of firmness and tact for dealing with wayward authors. I suppose we’ve had arguments, but I don’t remember them. I trust her judgment completely; my books and I owe her a great deal.”—Susan Cooper, author, THE DARK IS RISING; KING OF SHADOWS; VICTORY
“Emma Dryden has been one of my editors for fifteen years. Any book that Emma works on shines with unquestionable integrity, experience, and innovation. I consider it a privilege to work with her.”—Louise Borden,, author, AMERICA IS…; THE GREATEST SKATING RACE; BIG BROTHERS DON’T TAKE NAPS
Dryden oversees her own children’s editorial and publishing consultancy company, drydenbks LLC. When she is not editing, Dryden consults about the publishing industry and she also does some writing of her own. She writes poetry and shares musings on her blog, “our stories, ourselves,” where her latest entry is called What Does Our Backlist Say About Us?
“Writing books is a lot more difficult than editing books,” she’s said in one of the many interviews she’s given. “So, to all the authors reading this, please know I empathize with the pain and struggle–and joy–you go through every day of your writing lives.”
During my sophomore year at Vassar College, I studied poetry writing and storytelling with Nancy Willard, and then I transferred to Smith College to continue my English studies and take a poetry writing seminar with former U.S. Poet Laureate, Richard Wilbur. The summer before I graduated, I landed an internship as a “jack of all trades” assistant at Viking Children’s Books and once I earned my B.A in English Language and Literature from Smith, I returned to New York City to be an Editorial Assistant at Random House Children’s Books. I was then hired as Associate Editor for the legendary Margaret K. McElderry, whose eponymous imprint was part of Macmillan Children’s Books, and was later named Senior Editor of the imprint. After Margaret K. McElderry retired, I was made Vice President, Editorial Director, and in 2005 I became Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position I held until 2009.
Over the course of my twenty-five year career I’ve edited nearly five-hundred books for children and young readers, ranging in format from board books and picture books to poetry, novelty books, non-fiction, middle grade fiction, and young adult/teen fiction and fantasy. As publisher, I oversaw a staff that ranged between six and eleven editors and the annual publication of over one-hundred hardcover and paperback titles. During my tenure with Atheneum and McElderry Books, the books I edited consistently garnered starred reviews, were named to year-end “best of” lists, received regional and national publicity and acclaim, and I was proud to see many of my titles hit the bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and other national publications.
Books published under my guidance have received numerous awards and medals, among them the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, National Book Award nomination, Coretta Scott King Author Award, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustration Award, Indies Choice Book Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Award, Museum of Tolerance Children’s Book Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, Christopher Award, Jane Addams Book Award, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, and National Parenting Publications Gold Award.
Dryden is a member of ALA (American Library Association), ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children), and is on the Board of Advisors of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). She is frequently invited to speak about the state of the industry and to lead workshops and seminars pertaining to all aspects of the craft and business of children’s books.
See Dryden’s website at http://www.drydenbks.com/