3.11.2018

Determining Our Own Value & Worth: It's Valuable & Worth It!

logo by +grace lin 


My first job in publishing, as an Editorial Assistant, was with Random House Children's Books and a starting salary of $14,000. I became an Associate Editor with Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing) in 1990 with a salary of somewhere around $20,000. Over the course of nearly twenty years with the company I moved up the editorial and corporate ladders to become Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, two prestigious trade imprints within Simon & Schuster Children's Publshing (which had, years before, bought Macmillan). 
I was laid off in May 2009. The layoff stripped me of my contract, my corporate title, my business card, my salary ten times what it had been 1990, my status in the field of children's publishing, and all the accompanying perks. That layoff stripped me of what I'd come to believe defined me as a worker, as a business person, as an adult, and as a woman. 

As people do in a corporate structure, I'd become accustomed to my bosses determining what salary, bonuses, and raises I deserved based on their perception of my value and worth to the company. I was doing fine until...I was laid off because I'd gotten too expensive. Ironic, right? I spiraled...

For three months following the layoff I questioned what I was possibly worth anymore. If I no longer had the contract, title, business card, salary, status, or perks, what was my value and worth in the children's book industry? Did I have any? I was more shocked than angry at that time...Well, I was angry, but because I'd been under contract, I wasn't allowed to express my anger publicly. My partner was angry--and allowed to express it. Within the first few weeks after I was home, she channeled her anger into a design for a logo. It looked like this: 

logo design by anne corvi
That logo--the bold red; my last name; the balanced letters; the fun alternative spelling of "books"--helped me come to an empowering realization: What defined my value and worth were my name, my expertise, and my reputation in the children's publishing industry. No one could take these away from me and these were fully intact. My thinking shifted. My attitude shifted.                                       

I launched my own children's editorial and publishing consultancy firm on March 11, 2010. It was called drydenbks. I had a logo! I made business cards.  I created a website. And then I was faced with two huge challenges: Forming an LLC and coming up with what to charge clients. The LLC formatting wasn't easy , but it was way easier than coming up with a fee structure. Now was the time for me--and me alone--to determine what salary, bonuses, and raises I deserved based on my own perception of my value and worth to my company and my clients. Of course I needed to establish a fee structure commensurate with my name, expertise, and reputation. How hard could that be? I'd been a VP, Publisher overseeing  over $25-million dollars in annual business, but when it came to figuring out what to charge--figuring out, essentially, my value and my worth--I hesitated, I doubted, I made excuses. I didn't want to undersell myself, but I sure didn't want to charge people "too much." What would people think if I had the chutzpah to charge high fees? I probably didn't really deserve to charge high fees, right? I mean, it's not like I'd spent years in graduate school or had a PhD. It's not like I was a psychotherapist or a lawyer. So who was I to charge so much, to charge "too much"?

I compared the fees other consulting and freelance editors were charging. There weren't nearly as many consulting children's book editors out there as there are now, but there were two in particular whom I respected--one woman with fewer years experience as an editor and no experience as a publisher, and another woman with more years experience as an editor but no experience as a publisher. I decided I'd be safe in setting fees somewhere in between the fewer-years editor and the more-years editor and see what happened. drydenbks launched. I was busy. I was in demand. And one year later I raised my fees. This wasn't because a year had gone by and it was time for a raise. This was because I'd gained a confidence in myself I'd never had while working for Simon & Schuster; this was because I'd learned to say "no" in ways that progressed my business; this was because I recognized my experience as an editor and a publisher put me in a different league than some other consulting editors, and that raised my value and worth to clients. 

Putting a monetary value on ourselves is something women don't do at all well. We generally don't feel entitled. We generally don't feel like we can negotiate well enough. We generally feel we don't deserve something if we don't deserve it. We tend to agree. We tend to say "yes" more than we say "no." And we tend to apologize when we ask for what we want.  Men in my experience, don't have a problem with any of this at all. Men are able to ask for what they think they deserve whether they deserve it or not. Men generally do feel entitled. Men generally have no problem saying "no." And men rarely apologize when they ask for what they want. It was extraordinarily valuable to me in determining my own value to consult with women friends and colleagues as I launched and established drydenbks. It was also extremely valuable to me to think about what language and attitudes my male co-workers and staff at Simon & Schuster used in negotiations and meetings. 

drydenbks LLC is celebrating its eighth year anniversary today. It's hard to believe it's been that long. Being the owner and operator of my own business has taught me how to be a stronger worker, a stronger business person, a stronger adult, and a stronger woman. Much stronger. I am entitled to the fees I charge for the work I deliver to clients. I say "no" when I think that's best for my business (not to mention my sanity). If I see I'm apologizing in an email when asking for what I want, I edit that apology out of the email. Do I have chutzpah? Well, the word is defined as "shameless audacity, impudence." I don't think I have chutzpah. What I do have are my name, my expertise, and my reputation. 

There were some exercises I did when I was establishing drydenbks LLC--exercises that helped me move forward and gain confidence in doing so. And funnily enough, I now ask many women clients--writers, illustrators, editors, agents, teachers--to do these same exercises when I'm consulting with them about work priorities or life/work balance and goals:
  • Write down all your greatest attributes that pertain to your work. 
  • Write down five positive adjectives about yourself as a worker.
  • Write down what excites you most about your work.
  • Write down your work goals--your immediate goals and your goals for five years from now.
  • Write down what's stopping you from achieving your work goals.
  • Finish this sentence: I am worth it because ______________

There are four pieces of financial advice I recommend to women all the time:
  • Have your own checking and savings accounts separate from those of your spouse, partner, or family member
  • Establish your own lines of credit and keep at least one credit card in your own name.
  • Have a good accountant
  • Read this article: Money Is Power. And Women Need More of Both. 

And I can't emphasize enough how empowering these two exercises can be:
  • Create a business card for yourself.
  • Create a logo for yourself!


(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

2.22.2018

Listening, Learning, and Living Fully

I am listening.
I am learning.
I am collaborating.
I am fighting.
I am convincing.
I am yielding.
I am angry.
I am heartbroken.
I am celebrating.
I am mourning.
I am proud.
I am confiding.
I am comforting.
I am instigating.
I am soothing.
I am challenging fears.
I am expanding bravery.
I am challenging complicity.
I am contemplating what it means to take a stand.
I am contemplating what it means for me to take a stand.

I appreciate and believe those who raise voices.
I appreciate this time to open eyes, open ears, open arms, and open heart.

Last week...this week...next week...and the weeks after that, I will continue.
For this is what it means to live fully in the world.


(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

12.19.2017

When a Dream Comes True

We feel cold but we don't mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn't feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It's worth the cold for that." -- Philip Pullman, THE GOLDEN COMPASS
I've been obsessed with the Aurora Borealis for as long as I can remember. Those dancing lights in the night sky seemed magical to me, something larger than myself. I saw pictures of them and promised to seem them for myself...someday. Years went by, the Aurora Borealis living in my imagination, triggering an inexplicable yearning so deep I couldn't talk about without crying. So I didn't talk about it. Except to my partner Anne, and we promised we'd one day see them together.


In September Anne read somewhere that the brightness and visibility of the Aurora Borealis was waning, as part of an ongoing cycle, having been at peak in 2013 and not due to peak again until 2024. That day I made us reservations to go to Iceland for our anniversary, which falls in the middle of December, and planned a four-day getaway, making reservations for three different Northern Lights tours for all three nights we'd be there. 

The weather and conditions didn't align the first two nights and we didn't see anything but stars or clouds in the night sky. Then on the third night--the night before we were to travel home--we were loaded into two 4x4 jeeps and trundled out to the southwestern-most tip of the island, the snow- and ice-covered beach of Reykjanes Peninsula. Our enthusiastic guide consulted satellite images of clouds, set up a powerful telescope for stargazing between the clouds, set up his camera and tripod, and asked us to be patient. As the wind howled and sleet-filled clouds spiraled over us, the black-dark was filled with stories of trolls and hidden people, of Vikings and Yule Lads, of the extinct Great Auk of Iceland--and we waited. 


This is what the beach looks like during the day!
Clouds parted, giving us hope, then clouds rolled in bringing more wind, more sleet. We'd started out at 9:00PM and as we neared Midnight we had just enough night vision to explore a bit of the shadowy, rocky beach, not sure where the shore ended and the ocean began. We could just make out huge rock formations, could hear but not see the crashing waves. Would we keep waiting? the guide asked. Yes, we would. Because it was magical. Because we knew we had to. Because we had hot chocolate and kleiner (Icelandic donuts) to keep us warm.

Our guide explained that on the right settings, including a 30-second shutter speed, the camera will catche colors and movements behind the clouds--something our naked eye can't see --and shortly after 1:00AM, the camera started to catch a bit of color. Consulting his satellite images once more, our guide trundled us back into the jeeps. We left the beach, driving slowly, with the guides using their handhelds the whole time. Ours were the only vehicles on that road. Suddenly the lead jeep stopped. "Get out! Get out!" And this is what we saw:


The Aurora Borealis danced for us. We didn't move from that spot for two hours. I cried. I laughed. We were in awe. We toasted with a glass of Brennivin, or Black Death, growling "Skal" the way the Vikings surely would have done.


Someday had come. December 16, 2017. The fourteenth anniversary of the exact day my dad died. I think he was with us that night. And there we were, among the stars, seeing the Aurora Borealis. A dream come true. It made me remember anything is possible if you're patient, if you're hopeful, if you're willing to be disappointed along the way, if you're open to the possibilities. This, I believe, is as true when it comes to our goals for our writing and our art as it is for our goals for our own lives.




We've created an album of a few of our many Iceland photos here.

 (c) emma d dryden, drydenks LLC

6.02.2017

Adjusting

Well, we've made our BIG move from New York City to Hope Street in Bristol, Rhode Island, and I've been learning what it takes to adjust.

The dictionary defines "adjustment" as "the small alterations or movements made to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result." In this new apartment, new town, new state I find myself in a process of figuring out what my desired fit, appearance, or result are. It's been neither terribly easy or terribly hard--it's been a process, though, to which I've had to stay alert and open. Every day I need to remind myself that adjustment is a process that I can control. Whatever fit I want, I can adjust myself to get there. 

For writers and artists, isn't the process of revision the very same thing? The figuring out of what alterations and movements need to be made to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result. Revision can be tricky, messy, confusing, even scary--and it can be exhilarating and revealing. So too when we are forced to adjust to a new situation in which we find ourselves within our lives or our art. 

Taking a larger view, this is definitely a period of upheaval and change throughout our society--requiring constant adjustment to try to make sense of things that I feel are senseless. Sometime, adjustment doesn't achieve a desired fit, but we do the best we can. As I take this journey, I embrace what sailors know instinctively--you can't direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails, and keep beating towards your destination.

5.05.2017

Keep Going!



If there's one directive I share with every client with whom I work, it's to keep going. 

I'm a firm believer in keeping going with one's writing, with one's vision, with one's goals, and with one's stories, no matter how difficult, how long, or how challenging the journey may be. 

And so, in that spirit, I share this image so we may remind one another and ourselves that the journey is not only worth it, but the journey is as important as the end result. And as we journey, remember to stay open to the possibilities and opportunities that may show up tomorrow which we couldn't have even imagined yesterday.

Keep going, my friends. Keep going.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

3.22.2017

Hope - Next Exit


"It must take courage to fly, 
to trust the wind to hold you 
as it lifts you away 
from all you've ever known. 
To know inside that you're heading 
where you're meant to go--
even if you've never been there before." 
-- from HALF A CHANCE by Cynthia Lord



So, the time has come to tell my secret. 

Well, I'm not really telling a secret. But I am revealing something I've not talked about on social media or in public. Some things just don't need to be processed socially or publicly. But now's the time. Long story short, I've spent much of the last year preparing myself, my family, and my home for a temporary relocation out of New York City to Rhode Island--and my moving date is April 14! 

We're making this move to allow my partner to follow a dream that will open up pathways towards a new career--a dream that's been in the making for over ten years! This had required us to renovate and empty out our New York City apartment where we both live and work so it can be sublet while we're away. And this has meant not just sorting through, cleaning out, rearranging, and renewing our apartment; it's meant sorting through, cleaning out, rearranging, and renewing  my childhood home. Which has honestly felt like a sorting through, cleaning out, rearranging, and renewing of my childhood. This process has been by turns filled with elation and sorrow, by turns overwhelming and cathartic. Authors with whom I work know I always encourage an appreciation for, and embracing of, the journey as much as the destination and a trusting of the process. And now it's my turn.  It's my time to experience the experience of this journey and to trust in the process, that's for sure.

A year ago, I didn't understand what I do now--that this process has been necessary and a long time in coming. I've owed my apartment a thorough cleaning, sorting, and renewing for years (closets, drawers, files, shelves, and boxes don't ever seem to sort themselves, do they?). What I appreciate now, today, on the verge of this move, is that I've owed myself just as thorough a cleaning, sorting, and renewing. What a gift this has been and continues to be. Not easy by any means--and believe me, I've had my breakdown moments along the way with one tantrum (okay, maybe two) and one half-hour lying-in-the-fetal-position incident (okay, maybe two).

I can't believe the movers will be here in three weeks. My partner's already up in Rhode Island because the program she's taking started March 1. I am in the New York apartment balancing move prep and drydenbks work; and I'm feeling like I'm on top of it now. Finally. Ready. Ready to go on this new adventure. Ready to take this chance. Ready to fly. Knowing inside that I'm heading where I'm meant to go--even if I've never been there before. And I'm hopeful.  

And you know what's great? The apartment in which we'll be living and in which drydenbks will carry on business is located in our new state in our new town on...Hope Street

Hope - next exit.


(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC

3.14.2017

Scholastic, Worms, and What If?

I couldn't be more thrilled that Judy Newman and her team at Scholastic Book Clubs are focusing their Scholastic Reads blog and Dollar Deal this week on WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR? that I co-wrote with Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Ken Min.

This book is inspiring young entrepreneurs in the classroom, in Girl Scout troops, in summer camps, and more! I'm so proud!

Thank you to all the teachers, counselors, educators, librarians, and readers who are embracing this book and asking the most important question, What if?

Take a look through the Scholastic Reads newsletter for five exclusive blog posts inspired by WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
http://t.message.scholastic.com/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40tDuvXyBsNO1OBH3PMmLvIiUworO4V8txRHN%2BiKMNcxE%3D&ET_CID=20170314_SBC_JudyBlogNewsletter_951&ET_RID=1731331721

I'm in a video!
http://www.judynewmanatscholastic.com/blog.html/category/etc/tags/judyblog/categories/behind-the-scenes


During the Scholastic interview, I was asked if I'd ever invented anything when I was a child. I'd forgotten all about this, but the memory of starting a worm farm suddenly came back to me! I talked about this with Scholastic, but the story had to be edited out for the sake of space. Here's the story: Growing up an only child, I loved playing by using my imagination. 

After a big rainfall one summer in Connecticut, when I was about eight, 
I began to collect worms and decided to start a worm farm. I put together trays of soil and settled the worms into their new home. I fancied I would be able to "breed" worms and sell them to people who wanted them. Needless to say, this whole enterprise didn't last very long, the worms weren't game, and I moved on to other imaginings and activities. But that worm farm? I remember it with such happiness! With just the right amount of ewww factor!

So, how many of you have ever invented something? Tell us about it in the comments!




8.13.2016

The Art of Letting Go in Life and Art

 "To live in this world
you must be able
 to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it 
against your bones 

knowing 
your life depends on it;
and, when the times comes to let it go,
to let it go." 

-- Mary Oliver, The Blackwater Woods


When this year began, I knew it would be a year of letting go. How much I’d need to let go of, I didn’t know, but I knew inevitable changes were coming that would force me to face losses of different kinds. That these losses would happen within the same week was a surprise—and an awakening to new beginnings I never could have imagined or planned.

At the end of June, we lost our beloved cat Charley Noble. He had been diagnosed with cancer four years ago and had been defying the vet’s prognosis year after year. Until this spring, when he just couldn’t keep fighting any longer. Charley died in my arms at home on a Monday morning. He’d waited for me to come home from a workshop the night before and then spent the night in my arms. Saying goodbye to our sweet boy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was his time. It was our time. To do what had to be done. To hold, comfort, and let our beloved cat go as he took his final breaths was a precious and rare gift. So I let him go.

That Tuesday morning, movers for an auction house packed and removed more than 300 pieces of furniture, crystal, silver, glass, china, collectibles, linens, and jewelry from our apartment. These were items that had been collected by my parents, then left to me after they died. These were items my parents had meant to deal with for years—many items even had brittle post-it notes on them, “To sell” in faded pencil, my mother’s distinctively messy handwriting. But the collections became too much for them and so these items came to me. Until this year I couldn’t find the strength to deal with them and thankfully, because my apartment has storage space, most of these items could stay stored out of sight, out of mind. But the knowledge that I would have to deal with them was always in the back of my mind—and that nagging feeling created in me a sense of anger—towards my parents,  towards the items, towards the work I knew was coming to sort, organize, and decide what to do with each and every item. 
It was only earlier this year that I was ready to allow the anger to dissipate, to allow myself to detach from the emotions and the memories. To do what had to be done. What had to be done was to let these items go. So I let them go.

On Thursday morning I met with my trainer Jay at the gym. I was feeling raw from the events of the past few days and couldn’t keep the tears at bay. “I just need you to push me today,” I said. And with a bear hug and a “Let’s do this,” Jay pushed me and I worked out. Before our hour was over, Jay asked me to weigh-in. I’ve been consistently losing weight, getting healthier and stronger since February 2015, but I didn’t know what the scale was going to show me that week. It showed me that I’d lost forty pounds. Pounds that had been slowing me down. Pounds that had been numbing me. Pounds that had been scaring me. I achieved a milestone that week. Did what had to be done. So I let them go.

That week finally over, I was at once exhausted and elated.  And one week later I was out of town teaching a writing workshop with lots of focus on revision. And what is revision? Isn’t revision of our work a method of allowing ourselves to recognize what needs to be changed and adjusted, to do what needs to be done, and to let go? Of course it is. Writers do this all the time. It's often the hardest part and the best part of the writing process. Letting go for the sake of finding the best possible whole. 

Letting go is sad and letting go is freeing.  Living over-weighted by weight for so long; living in worry and sadness for so long with Charley’s illness; living in anger and angst for so long with inherited items I didn’t want--I can’t shake the notion that letting go of all of it had to happen at the same time. It’s all interrelated and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do the letting go without somehow experiencing all of it at the same time. Coming out the other side my home is change and I am changed. I am freed. I am sad. I am happy. I am whole. 









(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

The Art of Letting Go in Life and Art

When this year began, I knew it would be a year of letting go. How much I’d need to let go of, I didn’t know, but I knew inevitable changes were coming that would force me to face losses of different kinds. That these losses would happen within the same week was a surprise—and an awakening to new beginnings I never could have imagined or planned.

At the end of June, we lost our beloved cat Charley Noble. He had been diagnosed with cancer four years ago and had been defying the vet’s prognosis year after year. Until this spring, when he just couldn’t keep fighting any longer. Charley died in my arms at home on a Monday morning. He’d waited for me to come home from a workshop the night before and then spent the night in my arms. Saying goodbye to our sweet boy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was his time. It was our time. To do what had to be done. To hold, comfort, and let our beloved cat go as he took his final breaths was a precious and rare gift. So I let him go.

That Tuesday morning, movers for an auction house packed and removed more than 300 pieces of furniture, crystal, silver, glass, china, collectibles, linens, and jewelry from our apartment. These were items that had been collected by my parents, then left to me after they died. These were items my parents had meant to deal with for years—many items even had brittle post-it notes on them, “To sell” in faded pencil, my mother’s distinctively messy handwriting. But the collections became too much for them and so these items came to me. Until this year I couldn’t find the strength to deal with them and thankfully, because my apartment has storage space, most of these items could stay stored out of sight, out of mind. But the knowledge that I would have to deal with them was always in the back of my mind—and that nagging feeling created in me a sense of anger—towards my parents,  towards the items, towards the work I knew was coming to sort, organize, and decide what to do with each and every item. 
It was only earlier this year that I was ready to allow the anger to dissipate, to allow myself to detach from the emotions and the memories. To do what had to be done. What had to be done was to let these items go. So I let them go.

On Thursday morning I met with my trainer Jay at the gym. I was feeling raw from the events of the past few days and couldn’t keep the tears at bay. “I just need you to push me today,” I said. And with a bear hug and a “Let’s do this,” Jay pushed me and I worked out. Before our hour was over, Jay asked me to weigh-in. I’ve been consistently losing weight, getting healthier and stronger since February 2015, but I didn’t know what the scale was going to show me that week. It showed me that I’d lost forty pounds. Pounds that had been slowing me down. Pounds that had been insulating me. Pounds that had been scaring me. I achieved a milestone that week. Did what had to be done. So I let them go.

That week finally over, I was at once exhausted and elated.  And one week later I was out of town teaching a writing workshop with lots of focus on revision. And what is revision? Isn’t revision of our work a method of allowing ourselves to recognize what needs to be changed and adjusted, to do what needs to be done, and to let go? Of course it is. Writers do this all the time. It's often the hardest part and the best part of the writing process. Letting go for the sake of finding the best possible whole. 

Letting go is sad and letting go is freeing.  Living over-weighted by weight for so long; living in worry and sadness for so long with Charley’s illness; living in anger and angst for so long with inherited items I didn’t want--I can’t shake the notion that letting go of all of it had to happen at the same time. It’s all interrelated and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do the letting go without somehow experiencing all of it at the same time. Coming out the other side my home is changed and I am changed. I am freed. I am sad. I am happy. I am whole. 









(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc

6.21.2016

Experiencing Our Stories With All Of Our Senses


My good friend and colleague, artist Roxie Munro recently shared a very important article that got me thinking about why I edit the way I edit and why I make a certain editorial suggestion to authors.

The article is titled "Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age" and is written for the New York Times by the inestimable Perri Klass, a pediatrician who is a Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University and is National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read, the national literacy organization which works through doctors and nurses to promote parents reading aloud to young children.

I found myself nodding vigorously as I read this article and then I started to feel downright validated for a certain editorial suggestion I often make to authors and which authors, for the most part, tend to hate with a passion. That suggestion? To hand write your manuscript. Yup! I tell authors over and over again not to underestimate the value of writing out their manuscripts by hand at least once all the way through, either in the early draft phase or in the revision phase of their process. For picture book authors, this is a piece of cake. For poets, this is common practice. For novelists, not so much. But who ever said writing would be easy?

Susan Cooper's early notes for her
Dark Is Rising sequence
(www.TheLostLand.com)
As we were working on one of her manuscripts, author Susan Cooper once told me she hand writes her early drafts of novels on yellow lined legal-size pads of paper. And look at Susan Cooper--she's won the Newbery Medal, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret Edward Award, and a whole lot more. She's doing something right. And to my mind it is hand writing her early drafts that not only helps discipline her thoughts but also helps fully engage her on multiple levels as she's immersing herself in her story and characters.

Why do I suggest authors hand write their manuscripts? To immerse as many senses at once in the creation of a story: Hand writing engages the hands and touch; hand writing engages the ears (the sound of a pencil or pen crossing paper is a form of background music that can't be created in any other way); hand writing engages the eyes. If one is writing with scented pens, hand writing can even engage the sense of smell. Lest you think I'm being flip, there is a distinctive smell of pencil on paper, the smell of certain inks and pens is distinctive, and the smell of eraser is distinctive, too--and these can certainly add to the overall immersive sensory experience of hand writing. So the only sense hand writing may not directly engage is the sense of taste. But before we leave it at that, I actually did write a post a while back on the very subject of the importance of listening to our manuscript being read aloud as not only a means to hear the work, but to in fact taste it and sense it. So tasting our work is not such a crazy idea as much as delicious one.

Roxie Munro inking one of her pieces. Talk about
immersion! (www.roxiemunro.com)
Think for a moment about artists and illustrators--people who work with paints, brushes, inks, papers, and all sort of fabrics and materials to create their artwork. Talk about an immersive sensory engagement where smell is most definitely as engages as touch, sight, and hearing. And perhaps even taste too. 

Suffice to say, the more fully engaged and immersed one can be with their creative work, the more fully a part of the work one will become on deeply sensory and emotional levels that may be not able to be described, but can be experienced and felt. The more we experience and feel as we create our stories, the more our stories will allow readers to experience and feel.

When I'm editing a manuscript--be it an 80-word picture book or an 80,000-word novel, I always ALWAYS hand write notes, comments, and impressions on the manuscript pages and in red wide-ruled letter-size notebooks. I don't ever EVER share these hand written notes with authors; this process of hand writing my notes is an essential step in my editorial process and it's something I need to do before ever typing up an editorial memo or typing in Track Changes. The hand writing process is my way of getting immersed in the word and in the story, is my way of helping myself remember what I'm reading, and is my way of clarifying what I'm really thinking.

In her article, Perri Klass is writing specifically about the importance of children hand writing. She quotes Karin James, a professor of psychology and brain sciences, who says, "My overarching research focuses on how learning and interacting with the world with out hands has a really significant effect on our cognition, on how writing by hand changes brain function and can change brain development."  I'm not a scientist, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I don't think stimulating brain function in this way ends in childhood. I think writing by hand continues to stimulate and change brain function throughout our adult lives.

So I challenge you:  Hand write your manuscript. See what happens. Start easily, with a scene or a sequence or a chapter. Then keep going if you possibly can. Experience your work with as many senses as you possibly can. It's got to be great for your brain and I can promise it will be great for your stories!



(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc