Filling the Writer’s Toolbox With Editor Emma Dryden 2020

October 11 - 15, 2020

Join Us To:

Prepare your manuscript for submission under the guidance of renowned editor Emma Dryden. Learn proven techniques for editing and revising your manuscript, and have time to put the techniques into practice. Deepen your understanding of the fundamentals of writing for children.

What You’ll Learn:

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.
  • Receive multiple feedback perspectives from faculty.
  • Participate in small-group workshopping with Emma and special industry guests.
  • Have time to write or revise.

Mornings will be spent in working sessions with Emma (detail below, under Agenda):

  • First Lines, Last Lines, and the Promise Fulfilled
  • Hearing Voices, Hearing Characters
  • Internal and external world-building
  • Renew, Refresh, and Revise!

Attend If:

  • You have a completed draft of a picture book or middle grade or young adult novel. You will receive expert feedback on your work and time to revise accordingly.
  • 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.
  • You need time to work and reflect on feedback. Time is built into the schedule to for you to work and/or reflect.

Approximately one month before the workshop writers will be asked to submit pages for critique. Picture Book writers will submit one completed manuscript with a cover letter. Novelists will submit a sample of work from their opening, climax, and ending. (This sample can be no longer than 50 pages.)

Still not sure if this is the course you need? Watch a video where Program Director Alison Green Myers talks in detail about Filling the Writer’s Toolbox and our Revision Retreat.

More faculty is being added to this course.


Day 1
Arrival and check in

Introductions and Welcome
Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner session, Emma Dryden:
First Lines, Last Lines, and the Promise Fulfilled
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.

Day 2
Morning Session, Emma Dryden:
Hearing Voices, Hearing Characters
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.

Roundtable Critique Meet-up #1
Free Writing & Revision Time

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Faculty evening presentation

Day 3
Morning Session, Emma Dryden:
Internal and external world-building
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&A.

Roundtable Peer Critique Session #2
First & Last Pages Critiques

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Faculty presentation

Day 4
Morning Session, Emma Dryden:
Renew, Refresh, and Revise!
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.

Presentation on editor/agent process and Q&A w
First & Last Pages Critiques

Appetizers & Dinner

Day 5
Choice of two sessions:
Leaving Room for Your Illustrator (for picture book writers)
The Power of Play: Novel Ideas Off the Page
Writing & revision time

Wrap-Up Session with Emma
Final Q & A

A Note About Highlights Workshop Agendas


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.”

Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for this workshop:
Application deadline is July 23, 2020. Scholarships will be announced August 22, 2020.
Click here to apply!
For more information about scholarships, click here.


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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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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Linda Camacho

Linda Camacho is an agent with Gallt & Zacker Literary. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon &…
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Alison Green Myers

Special Guest Alison Green Myers is the program director for the non-profit Highlights Foundation, which supports children’s book writers and…
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Lisa Cinelli

Teaching Assistant Lisa Cinelli is an award-winning painter, childrenʼs book author/illustrator and a Teaching Artist. She is happiest exploring story…
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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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All-Inclusive Event Cost: $1,395.00

All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks. Free shuttle service is available from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AVP) International Airport. Airport pick-up at Newark Airport is also available for $75 round-trip.

We offer payment plans as low as $75/month. We'll be in touch with details after you register.

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workshop information

Begins with dinner on Sunday, October 11, and ends on Thursday, October 15, with lunch.