Thursday, November 13, 2014

Emma D. Dryden: A Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Registration for the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC is well underway. If you’re attending, or planning to attend, you also have the opportunity to register for one of the great intensives taking place on Friday, February 6. Spots are going fast, and the Writers’ Intensive: World Building: A Hands-On Workshop is almost sold out.


 If registering for this intensive is in your plans, don’t delay. Register now. 

If you’re still considering, I have just the person you’ll want to hear from: the fabulous Emma D. Dryden, who will be moderating the World Building intensive. Emma is the founder of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm. Emma has edited over a thousand books for children and young readers and many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Books published under Emma’s guidance have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to, the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor.

Emma took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about the nearly sold out World Building Intensive. 

Jolie: Each year, the SCBWI precedes the winter conference with several great intensives. For writing we typically see a new focus each year. This year's: World Building: A Hands-on Workshop. While the idea of focusing on World Building for a entire day sounds amazing, I'm even more drawn by the hands-on aspect of this intensive. Can you share more about what participants can plan to experience as well as walk away with at the end of the day? 

Emma: I’m all about writers deepening their craft at every opportunity, and that includes new writers as well as writers who’ve been writing and publishing for many years. So saying, I’m a huge fan of any workshop, session, or intensive that provides opportunities for writers to actually do some WRITING. Impromptu writing, based on writing prompts or provocative questions, not only forces writers to write with abandon and with their internal editor turned off, but can also spark new ideas or perspectives for writers that they hadn’t thought of before. It can be quite exciting and revealing. So, in our World Building session, several of us will be guiding the attendees through some writing exercises specific to their current works-in-progress and specific to the concept of world building. By the end of the day, not only will writers walk away with helpful handouts and heads full of ideas, but they will walk away with some pieces of writing that may find their way into their manuscripts in some form—writing they might not have achieved otherwise. 

Jolie: I agree. There’s nothing better than an opportunity to do some writing, and I love that you say participants could write something they might not have otherwise. The other added bonus is that participants will have the opportunity to share their ideas and work though world-building strategies with industry experts. Can you tell us more about the critique opportunity? 

Emma: The writing exercises that will be discussed during the round table portions of the intensive are going to be based on Henry Neff's S.P.R.I.T.E. acronym which he'll be describing in his opening session. Honestly, I don't think there will be intensive or scary critiques of the writing exercises as much as discussion about the writing exercises insofar as this means a discussion about where people are with world building in their own manuscripts. The round tables will be a chance for all the attendees to, using Henry's exercise as a guide, discuss their world building techniques, questions, thoughts, to identify what work they need to do to deepen or authenticate their world building, and to get professional feedback and guidance in that setting. 

Jolie: That sounds invaluable. Is World Building focused only on fantasy and science fiction?

Emma: Not at all. Really paying attention to the details of world building is essential for the success of any story, be it fantasy or realistic, fiction, nonfiction, historical, or contemporary. How one character perceives the world in which they live, even if it’s meant to be our “here and now,” is going to be quite different from how another character perceives that very same world. Additionally, we often overlook the fact that world building consists not only of the details and facets of the world in which a story takes place, but also within our characters themselves. Just as a physical, geographic world has texture, landscape, and topography, so too does a character—and it’s just as important to explore and build the internal world of a character (the emotional, psychological, spiritual architecture of the character) as it is to explore and build the external world in which that character functions, emotes, perceives, and lives. 

Jolie: The Intensive description states that all children's book authors are welcome, but might you have advice about where writers should with their writing projects (concept only, ready to revise, submission ready, etc.)?

Emma: First, it’s important to note that world building is the architecture of any story, and world building happens at different levels in picture books, in novels, in non-fiction, and in fiction, so we trust writers who are not writing sci-fi or fantasy will see the value in this session. If writers are at the early concept stage, this intensive will help them focus on what questions they need to ask themselves in order to start figuring out the details of the external and internal worlds of their stories and characters. If writers are further along in the process, ready to revise or re-revise a completed manuscript, this intensive will help them sharpen their world building skills and assist them in spotting the places in their work where more external and internal world building may need to be teased out, developed, or fine-tuned. If writers are coming to this intensive with the feeling their work is submission-ready, I suspect this intensive will provide them with a kind of world building checklist that is likely to send those writers back to their manuscripts for at least one more round of revision! ☺ 

 Jolie: Thank you so much, Emma.

Emma also shared several related blog posts if you’re interested in a bit more reading about world building. The first two are from Emma’s blog, “our stories, ourselves,” and the third gives a sneak-preview of what Henry Neff will be talking about during the intensive.

You can also find and follow Emma and drydenbks on Twitter (@drydenbks) and Facebook (


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Great post - can't wait for the World Building intensive! Thanks, Emma and Jolie!

aminaraifi said...

What an amazing interview! loved hearing about you. Writers from different fields who have a deep passion for writing know how it gives joy to write. Share the thoughts with the reader, and give information through research. I was an author and now I have switched to an expert resume writer. I think those writers who write with their heart, their work comes out as a masterpiece.