Filling the Writer’s Toolbox With Editor Emma Dryden Online Workshop 2020

October 1 - November 2, 2020

Online Course Info:

This month-long online workshop will help you prepare your manuscript for submission under the guidance of renowned editor Emma Dryden. It features LIVE Zoom sessions, live roundtable critiques, pre-recorded videos, office hours, writing exercises, private pitch consultations, and an interview with an agent and editor.

Throughout the course you will have multiple opportunities for feedback. Formally, you will receive feedback in small group roundtable critique sessions and you will also have a one-to-one consultation with editor Emma Dryden to discuss your story pitch and emotional arc, as well as informal feedback during hands-on writing exercises and office hours.

Online Workshop Participant Cap:

30 students.

What You’ll Learn and Experience:

At this workshop, you will:

  • Learn and practice techniques for editing and revising.
  • Get help preparing your manuscript to catch the heart of agents and publishers.
  • Hear engaging craft sessions on voice, character, revision, world-building and more.
  • Participate in small-group workshopping with peers.

Attend If:

  • You have a completed draft of a picture book or middle grade or young adult novel. You will receive help preparing your work for submission to agents and editors..
  • You have taken your manuscript through at least one or two rounds of revision. This course is best for intermediate to advanced writers who are willing to keep working to get it right.
  • You want to learn tools and strategies for improvement. The toolbox you’ll be given in this course will help you move your book closer to submission-ready.

Preliminary Agenda

September 18
Manuscript submissions due. (You will receive submission and formatting guidelines after you register.)

September 24
Peer-to-peer instructions and manuscripts arrive. Participants begin reading.

October 1-4
Introduce yourself and your project in our virtual classroom community.
Connect with fellow writers in your peer-to-peer groups.
Pre-recorded videos:
How to make a dummy
Off-the-page novel activities
Setting yourself up for roundtable critique
Tips for beginning your novel

October 5
LIVE Zoom session, 5pm EDT
Lecture: First Lines, Last Lines, and the Promise Fulfilled with Emma Dryden
So often agents and editors stop reading a manuscript after the first page. Why? What’s missing? Emma will start this session with a presentation about the importance of first lines and first pages, focusing on what the first page promises to the main character and to the reader. Emma will then comment on two or three first and last typewritten and appropriately formatted pages of participants’ manuscripts. This session will provide the sort of thoughts and comments agents and editors have when they consider submissions. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.

October 5-10
Daily, 7 pm EDT
LIVE Zoom peer roundtables

October 12
LIVE Zoom session, 5:30 pm EDT
Lecture: Hearing Voices, Hearing Characters with Emma Dryden
Voice is elusive and very hard to define, yet it’s as important as character in terms of compelling agents and editors to read beyond the initial query. Emma will start this session with a discussion of all aspects of voice —narrative voice, character voice, and the overall voice of our stories. This will be followed by an exploration of the Character Interview Questionnaire and related Character Worksheets, which participants will use to go deeper into their characters’ voices, hearts, and minds. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.

October 19
LIVE Zoom session, 5pm EDT
Roundtable Group Check-in: Goals, Revisions, Next Steps

LIVE Zoom session, 5:30pm EDT
Lecture: Internal and external world-building with Emma Dryden
All stories—be they fantasy or reality, picture book or novel–need to exist within a consistent context. This session explores the physical, psychological, and emotional contexts for our stories and our characters. Emma will start this session with a presentation about world-building, followed by participants trying out some methods for building believable settings and believable inner worlds. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q& encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.

October 19- November 2
Times TBD
Emma Dryden will meet individually with each student to discuss pitches, emotional arc, and career plans.

October 26
LIVE Zoom session, 5pm EDT
Roundtable Group Check-in: Goals, Revisions, Next Steps

LIVE Zoom session, 5:30pm EDT
Agent Linda Camacho and editor Tiffany Liao in Conversation
Followed by Q & A

November 2
LIVE Zoom session, 5pm EDT
Optional open mic

LIVE Zoom session, 6:30pm EDT
Lecture: Renew, Refresh, and Revise! With Emma Dryden
Hang onto your hats! In this session, Emma will be guiding participants through a wide and varied array of revision techniques and tools. Some will be familiar; some will be new. Some will be fun; some will be uncomfortable. All will be valuable in forcing participants to see their work anew, which is a key to successful revision. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.
Followed by: wrap Up and farewells with Emma Dryden and guests


Interview with Emma D. Dryden: Revision, Getting Unstuck, and Knowing When Work is Ready to Submit
Ask an Editor: Emma D. Dryden
Interview with Emma D. Dryden
The Writer: Ranking Rejection


“Emma Dryden had a well-planned workshop that allowed for a LOT of input from faculty and time for participants to work on revisions. The pacing was thoughtful and productive.”

“Lisa Cinelli was amazing. She kept me from scrapping a MS and helped me see the revision it needed to be. Emma’s information, her ability to create a safe space for exposing our MSS to critique, and her generosity in helping us through this painful deep revision process was wonderful, as well. Yesenia was warm and generous and funny.”

“Everyone was AMAZING! Knowledgeable, encouraging, supportive, friendly, engaging…I was blown away by how much I learned from everyone. (And by how warm and sincere everyone was).”

“I got everything I needed to take my writing to the next level: revision tools, inspiration, affirmation…When someone used the word “magic” to describe Highlights Foundation Workshops, I couldn’t agree more.”

“There was so much, I don’t know where to begin. Gained new perspective on my book. Am excited about the new direction it is taking me.”

“I learned a lot about the revision process. I learned about sensitivity readers and got the names of YA and craft books that will help me with my manuscript. I learned more about how the publishing industry works, but for me, the most important learning was very personal. The workshop gave me the space and context to learn/affirm why I’m writing in the first place, and why I’m writing the story I am. It was a beautiful opportunity to learn to trust my process.”


Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden founded drydenbks LLC (, a premiere children’s editorial & publishing consultancy firm, after 25 years experience as…
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Linda Camacho

Special Guest Linda Camacho is an agent with Gallt & Zacker Literary. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at…
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Tiff Liao

Special Guest Tiff Liao is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She’s had the pleasure of editing…
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Yesenia Flores Diaz

Special Guest Yesenia Flores Díaz credits her parents and elementary school librarian for cultivating a love of reading. She won…
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Rona Shirdan

Special Guest Rona Shirdan is living her best life as a writer, freelance copy editor, and proofreader. She is the…
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Daria Peoples-Riley

Special Guest Daria Peoples-Riley’s first job was at nine years old in the children’s section of her hometown library in…
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Meera Trehan

Teaching Assistant Meera Trehan read as much as she could as a child, memorized poems, and ate enough cookies to…
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