50 things for which I’m grateful, appreciative, and mindful

I am turning fifty today. There. I've said it. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this...achievement.  It's certainly forcing me to think about my past and future in ways I've not thought of either before. And it's certainly forcing me to take stock in a way I haven't done since...well, since I turned forty! The last ten years have taken me in directions I never expected and have enabled me to do things I never knew I'd do. The last ten years have taught me to be mindful.  I'm witnessing my life today by writing down fifty things for which I'm grateful, appreciative, and mindful. They're in no particular order because they don't have to be. They just are.

sand dunes - china

1. my long, rich, deep, trusting, loving relationship with Anne

2. my beautiful inherited home

3. being successful at sustaining drydenbks as a viable business

4. knowing I am stronger and more resilient than I think I am

5. kind people

6. my health

7. being able to contribute the maximum into savings vehicles

8. being able to share my expertise and passion with others through my work

9. appreciative people

10. being on my own clock

11. my reputation as someone to be trusted professionally and personally

12. serendipitous meetings, conversations, and events

13. being born, growing up, and living in Manhattan

perito moreno glacier - Argentina

  14. being able to leave Manhattan to travel

  15. being open to learning new things

  16. an unfailingly supportive business community and “tribe”

  17. good friends

  18. stories and storytelling

19. reaching a point where the good memories of my parents are replacing the bad

20. knowing and trusting that we get what we need when the time's right

21. the depth of love I can feel for others

22. being told by my financial adviser that “You’re still young enough to…”
moose - maine

23. laughing with friends

24. quiet, still moments    

25. animals                     
penguins - patagonia
26. when a poem, or a line, or a story idea stays long enough for me to write it down

27. the support of writers who encourage me to write

28. knowing that to give is the nicest way to receive

29. the breadth and depth of our precious natural world

30. how fun it is to make Anne laugh

31. being able to take honest stock of myself

32. understanding the difference between wanting and needing
33. being someone who can value the journey as much as the destination

34. having scars to remind me that healing follows pain

35. my ability to inspire confidence 

36. beaches and the ocean

37. loving and being loved by Anne’s family

38. knowing I’d make my parents proud

39. having been adopted 

40. feeling rooted and feeling safe enough to fly at the same time

41. having a partner who pushes me to be less fearful

charley noble
42. having Charley Noble in our lives and hearts far longer than the vet predicted 

43. being awake to hear what the universe means for me to hear (most of the time)

44. knowing that reinventing myself is possible

45. seeing how many of the items on my “Someday I will…” list that I wrote over fifteen years ago have been crossed off

46. being able to add to a new “Someday I will…” list

47. understanding this life is a gift

48. being pretty much the kind of adult I imagined myself to be when I was a kid

49. having enough

50. having the luxury to dream of more

                                                                                                                 (c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


Give What We Have, Get Back What We Need

In the magazine Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, there’s a wonderful column by Mainer Rob McCall called "Awanadjo Almanack," in which he ponders and wonders about nature. His observations are vivid and splendid, and I’ve since learned he’s on the radio and has published some books as well. His words are gifts and I look forward to them with each issue of the magazine.

(c) Fine Solutions

In an Almanack entry he wrote last year, McCall made some observations that particularly resonated with me. He wrote: " Natural economics [is] the ancient universal system in which each creature gives what it has and gets back what it needs.  We put out birdseed, which feeds the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. In turn, we get the benefit of the birds eating bugs and singing for us...and the squirrels, for their part, cache nuts and seeds far and wide. These feed countless creatures and start the forests of tomorrow. The trees, in their turn, take water, sun, and soil, and make wood, leaves, nuts, and more soil, all of which enrich the natural economy. They don't take more than they can use. They don’t hoard. They waste nothing. In good times, if one has plenty, all have plenty. In bad times, all suffer alike. This is natural economics, and along with every other creature we humans practiced this same system for eons.... Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we humans seem to have gotten lost. Now, success seems to mean taking more than you can possibly use, and giving back as little as you possibly can. Call it "un-natural economics," and it could very well be the ruin of the race.”

I often ask my clients to define "success" for themselves. "Success" means something different to each and every one of us. This notion of a shared societal success that McCall is pondering is something quite different from personal success, though, and sad to say, I do think he's right in calling us out for taking more than we need and giving back as little as possible. This applies most acutely to our precious natural resources, but it also applies to other areas of our lives when it comes to so many people who put "me and mine" above the other, above our earth, above sharing, above "enough." When did having enough become not enough?

We have an obligation to protect our natural world. We have an obligation to raise our children to care. If we're to succeed as a society, it seems to me we need to practice a lot more empathy--and it's often through books and stories that our children can learn empathy. Books and stories allow us to try on someone else's shoes, to breath a different air, to taste something unfamiliar, to walk in the steps of an other, to feel how an other might feel. Books and stories can help us recognize we are all deeply connected one to another and the success of one can indeed nourish the success of another. As capable as we are of great things, we are just as capable of throwing the natural order off balance. To my mind, empathy and success are inexorably intertwined when it comes to what we need to regain that balance and renew our healthy relationships with our world, with each other, and with ourselves.

As authors and illustrators, we have the marvelous opportunity, not to mention the obligation, to give what we have through the stories we create--and what a precious gift we get in return knowing that a child has grown in empathy and compassion by experiencing our stories. To know that through the experience of reading and resonating with our stories children will have the tools they need to pass on that empathy to another living being, be it human, animal, or plant is the very best way to ensure our society will succeed. To give what we have and get back what we need. 

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


Keeping Up With the Racing Rules

"Instant gratification is not soon enough"
- Meryl Streep
I was reading an article about how some boat makers are researching ways to replace the baby-boomers who are aging out of the pastime of sailing, and in the course of their research once such company came across the following information:  If a child between the ages of ten and fifteen cannot learn a game in less than fifteen minutes, they lose interest in it. 


have the racing rules changed?
I have known for a long while that we've become a society accustomed to instant gratification and I have worried for a long while that we're all, as a result, becoming far too impatient. I worry about this most within the scope of the work I do as an editor and publishing consultant, wherein I'm advising authors and illustrators to take their time and slow down to truly learn and hone their craft before they start submitting, querying, and publishing. (My friend, agent Tracey Adams recently wrote a great piece on this very subject, which is worth slowing down to read: http://pubsmartcon.com/dont-rush-your-writing-with-literary-agent-tracey-adams/

So now here's this piece of information about children who have no patience for taking time to learn a new game--and we can easily make the leap to assume that if they won't spend more than fifteen minutes learning a new game, they'll certainly not be willing to spend more than fifteen minutes learning something that seems more challenging, complicated, or complex than a game. So what's going to happen to these kids as they get older? Will they become so accustomed to the quick fix, the instant answer, and the make-it-easy-for-me-or-don't-make-it-at-all that they won't have the basic skill set of thinking, evaluating, exploration, and experimentation to bring into adulthood? And what will become of nurturing relationships, the subtleties of negotiation, the complexities of decision-making? The people will certainly be able to move quickly through our fast-paced world, but at what cost? I worry.

Here's what I know: We need to recognize that these same kids we're talking about are our readers. So is it any wonder we keep hearing "If the first line of the book doesn't grab the reader, they won't read it," or "If the story doesn't start right in the action, kids won't be interested" or "Use fewer words; parents and kids don't want to read so much text"? Here's what I also know: Just as there are lots of different kinds of adults out there, many of whom are taking their time to learn, finesse, and refine their craft, there are lots of different kinds of kids out there, many of whom are willing to take more time to experience a story, develop a relationship, weigh options and make good choices, and so on. So it's these kids for whom we need to write stories, but it's also the kids who want the instant gratification for whom we need to write stories as well. Which means there's still a need for as wide a variety of stories as we can possibly produce. And what I believe this means, too, is that we still need to take time to produce the best quality stories we can, even if they're going to be gobbled up and digested in under the proverbial (or literal!) fifteen minutes!

It's critical as writers and illustrators working today to understand what kids are doing and how they're doing it--because our stories need to reach kids where they are. We can't wish away the fact kids are growing up fast, doing everything fast, wanting everything fast, and getting everything fast. The leaps and bounds we've made in technology are supporting, enhancing, and encouraging this behavior among kids and among us adults as well, so it is what it is. Let's face it, kids have always grown up fast--certainly a lot faster than the previous generation wished they would--so we're not necessarily dealing with something brand new here, and maybe my worries about "kids today" are similar to the worries my grandparents or parents had. I can't say. I do find it helpful to be reminded now and again, though, how kids are behaving in today's world so I can be a more mindful children's book editor and guide to authors and illustrators creating books for young readers. Even if that means every now and again I get caught by surprise and just have to say "Wow."

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC