publisher

Mentor Monday ~ Emma Dryden

Anyone who’s been seriously writing for children knows the name, Emma Dryden. She’s been in publishing 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down. During a nineteen year career with S&S, she earned the titles of Vice President and Publisher of both Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Emma has edited nearly 500 books and has worked with children’s literary stars such as Ellen Hopkins, Karma Wilson, Alan Katz, Kathi Appelt, Holly Black, Louise Borden, Lorie Ann Grover, Chris Demarest, and Shelia Moses. The list of major awards her books have garnered is staggering. A shock wave went through the children’s publishing world when she was laid off as part of a cost-cutting maneuver by S&S. I still remember thinking the person who’d told me the news had the wrong name.Emma Dryden still continues to give the children’s publishing industry her very best. Enter…Drydenbks, a multi-platform venture through which she will provide editorial and creative services to children’s book authors, illustrators, publishers, and agents. She will also conduct workshops and act as consultant to those seeking to break into or expand their presence in the children’s publishing arena. Emma also does some writing (mostly poetry), and keeps a blog.

I first met Emma Dryden as a wide-eyed newbie at Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat about 8 years ago. I remember her as being kind, quick to laugh, and having some darn cool sweaters. I also remember that during a first pages activity, she made some comments (along with author, Nancy Hope Wilson) about my work that changed the direction of my writing. I’ll be forever grateful for that, as that “direction” is now under contract.

Below, Emma writes about her blessing of having multiple professional mentors. Following the first piece, she writes a short piece about luminary, Margaret McElderry, and a humorous, fateful day twenty years ago. It seems that both Emma and Margaret were blessed on this frenzied August day….

Thanks, Emma, for your generosity in sharing these pieces with me.

Without further ado…

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Emma Dryden:

I have been blessed to have had several mentors in my professional life. I have been blessed by some people older than myself who by example instilled in me a regard for and understanding of not only the business of a business, but the humanity of a business; people who by example inspired me to learn from my mistakes, care about my reputation, conduct myself with honesty and passion, and strive to become a decent citizen of the world. By example, these people taught me, helped me, challenged me, and expected the best from me as they expected the best from themselves. They made me cry because they were tough. They made me laugh because they were playful. They made me think because they were thoughtful. They made me care because they were careful. And in the process, as I grew from being an assistant to a colleague to a peer, we became friends because we shared a deep mutual respect for our business, for one another, and for the future.

As I walk along the paths of my life and my work, I don’t always take the time to think of and thank these people who themselves never thought they were remarkable in any way, just doing their job, just doing what came naturally, just doing what was right. I stop now to think of them and thank them, for they were most remarkable indeed. Remarkable for inviting me into their offices and homes to witness them doing their jobs, doing what came naturally, doing what was right. To witness. And to embrace all that would become essential to my own growth into someone of whom I can be proud. A businesswoman, a colleague, a person of whom I sincerely hope they would be and are proud.

It is a wonder how deeply one person can touch another simply by being present. By listening. By suggesting. By living fully. And by laughing. Oh, the laughing! Would that everyone be as lucky as I’ve been to enjoy but one older person in their life by whose example they can be inspired in their work and their life.

In honor of Dilys Evans, Linda Hayward, Richard Jackson, Margaret K. McElderry, Ole Risom.

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My mentor and friend, Margaret K. McElderry, passed away at the age of 98 on February 14, 2011. Valentine’s Day. A day on which we celebrate and express love. And a day somehow wholly appropriate on which to say farewell to a woman who was full to overflowing with a passion for imagination, story, a beautifully crafted book, laughter, friends, fine wine and delicious food, blue skies over sparkling oceans, the quiet revelatory conversation and the raucous celebratory gathering—a woman so full of love and enthusiasm for all life has to offer professionally and personally.

Where our work ended and our friendship began, where our friendship ended and our work began, it’s hard to say. I suppose though, the working friendship and friendly working began the day in early August 1990 when I tried to reach Margaret to tell her I was accepting her job offer. Margaret was leaving that day at Noon for her annual vacation on Nantucket and we’d agreed I’d call her at home with my “Yes” or “No.” I made my decision. It was going to be “Yes.” That morning at eight o’clock, I called. No answer. I called again. No answer. I waited a half-hour and called again. No answer. I called over to Margaret’s office at Macmillan to confirm I had the right number. No one was in yet and I left a message to say I was doing all I could to reach Margaret to tell her I wanted the job and would they please let the HR folks know. I called Margaret again. No answer. I was getting on the subway to go to Random House where I was working at the time. I found a payphone to call my partner and my mother to ask them to please keep trying Margaret McElderry’s phone number while I was on the subway. They did. No answer. I got to Random House, called again. No answer. I left another message with Margaret’s assistant. I decided to come clean and tell Margaret’s friend, Knopf editor, Frances Foster what was going so she could confirm I was dialing the right number. I was.

Now I’d not only essentially given notice to Random House without actually accepting the job offer from Margaret, but it was getting on towards 11:00 and I was frantic. I knew darn well you don’t promise Margaret McElderry you’ll call her and not call her. I called Macmillan again and was told my messages had started to set off great concern. Publisher Judy Wilson was putting McElderry Books’ art director Barbara Fitzsimmons into a taxi at that very moment to send her down to Margaret’s house on Washington Square to see if everything was alright. Oh, and by the way, Judy Wilson was delighted, I was told, that I wanted the job. I called again. No answer. And then, just before Noon, my phone rang. Judy Wilson was on the line to tell me it seems Barbara got to Margaret’s house in a progressively nervous state, and was pounding on the door and holding her finger on the doorbell – only to have a rather put-out Margaret McElderry open the door, take one look at Barbara’s pale face, and say something to the effect of…”What are you doing here? Did you all think I was dead?” Well, in fact, yes we did. And, in fact, while Margaret McElderry was clearly very much alive, her telephone line was completely done for. It seems not three minutes before Barbara arrived, she’d just figured out what was happening when she’d quite irately picked up the receiver to call Macmillan’s HR department to tell them QUOTE “If that Emma Dryden doesn’t have the common decency and courtesy to call me at the time we arranged for her to call me, I don’t want her working for me anyway.” UNQUOTE.

Margaret and I never did speak that day, but I started as her associate editor on September 19, 1990, a week or so before she returned to the office, tan and energized, from Nantucket. And when we saw each other, we hugged and laughed and had some rather choice things to say about AT&T. The rest is history and we told and retold that story over and over again because it said something about our partnership and it made us laugh. Such a remarkably unexpected beginning to a remarkably unexpected friendship and collaboration. I’d give anything to call you right now, Margaret, to tell you how much it all meant to me—professionally and personally—to accept that job offer, to accept that gift. And this time, we’d use our cell phones.

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Publishers Weekly has a wonderful tribute, written by several kid lit professionals (including Emma Dryden) who knew and loved Margaret McElderry. Reading their pieces makes me wish that I’d been able to meet this one-in-a-billion woman! Her loss is a loss for everyone that loves children’s literature.

Categories: editor, inspiring, Mentor Monday, publisher

Mentor Monday ~ Erin Murphy

**DRUM ROLL**

I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new series, MENTOR MONDAYS! Every Monday, I will post a piece by a professional in the wonderful world of kid lit (editors, agents, and authors) who have been kind enough to share their stories with me. I have been humbled by the generosity of these folks and am in awe of the list itself! Such incredibly accomplished, talented, and giving people. Without people like this—who share their talent and expertise, who advocate for children and good literature in a world that seems more and more about “screen time,” (She says, checking her Facebook! 😉 where would we be?

And, where would we be without mentors? The people who take us aboard and show us the ropes. Often, however, a mentor is dear friend as well. Someone who lights something inside you that you didn’t know was there. Gives you the road map to where you’re headed.

I had planned to start this series with an author, but decided that I should begin with the person that launched my career—officially, anyway!

My first post is from literary agent, Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve heard that she’s a “dream agent.” As her client, I’m here to tell you that the rumors are true.

I did a ridiculous amount of research on agents and, when I was done with my ranked list, she was at the top. I drove five hours one way to meet her at a big book signing by several of her clients. The first time I set my eyes on her, she was scooping ice cream for a bunch of kids. She had an easy smile and, as the day progressed, I could tell that her clients adored her. We chatted (I had to stop mid-sentence to apologize for stumbling over my words) and left that day with an ache in my gut, thinking that it probably wouldn’t work out. I mean who signs with their first choice anyway?

Although Erin and I are of similar age, I consider her to be one of my mentors. I have learned a ton from her about the business of children’s lit and the craft of writing. I’ve learned that you can know someone for two years and feel like you’ve known them forever. I’ve learned what I’m truly capable of. I’ve learned that dreams come true.

~~So, . Here is Erin’s Mentor Story:

When I was a very newbie editor, back in (mmphmm), I was so fortunate to know Marlene Blessing through a regional publishing association. My boss, the person who had hired me into publishing in the first place, had passed away quite suddenly, and boy, was I in need of a mentor!
Marlene took me under her wing from afar, and we’d see each other now and then at conferences. She is really the one who empowered me as an editor: She demonstrated to me that the editor’s vision for shaping a list and the individual projects on it is critical, and that without vision, a list just doesn’t coalesce. She also helped me talk through author relationships and navigating the politics within a publishing house, and encouraged me to follow my instincts and to honor and value my authors as partners in the creative process and as friends–all lessons that served me well as both editor and as a literary agent.
I’m so glad you asked me this question, Lynda; I’d lost touch with Marlene over the years and this prompted me to look her up, to reach out anew, and to find that she is now editorial director at Interweave Books, and before that was overseeing some of Interweave’s craft magazines–so I’m certain she’s been instrumental in bringing together some things that I have loved in my off-time as a knitter and crafter!=
Thanks so much, Erin!
Categories: agent, author, Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Mentor Monday, publisher

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