Tell us something about yourself
Like my Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/Margo_L_Dill) account says, “I wear many hats.” I am a children’s writer, writing instructor, freelance editor, book reviewer, blogger, and freelance writer. I have run an editing business since 2006 where I edit and revise any written document. It’s called Editor 911 (http://www.margodill.com/editor911.html), and I love helping people improve their written work and also working on resumes! I also love going to schools and writing groups and presenting programs as well as teaching online classes and telecourses.
Your historical novel, “Finding My Place,” has recently been accepted for publication. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
Finding My Place is the story of 13-year-old Anna Green and her family’s struggles throughout the Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi) in 1863 during the War Between the States. Anna lives in caves, eats rats, works in an army hospital, experiences her first love, and strives to keep her family together through this horrible battle. Anna learns where she belongs in more ways than one while Grant’s cannons shoot over Vicksburg day and night, causing misery and grief for Vicksburg’s citizens.
How did you become interested in writing historical novels for kids, and why this particular subject?
I actually came up with the idea while I was teaching fifth grade social studies in 2000. I was a classroom teacher in Missouri back then, and we read about the Battle of Vicksburg. This battle was particularly fascinating to me because the citizens were the ones being bombed. The Union Army hoped the citizens would convince the Confederate Army to surrender, but the citizens held on for over 40 days, living in caves and eating anything, including rats, they could get their hands on. The people showed an amazing strength, and I wanted to write about this for kids.
How did you go about doing your research? Any particular pitfalls you encountered in researching this book?
Well, one pitfall was that I was scheduled to fly to the south from St. Louis on September 14, 2001 to start my research. Obviously after September 11, 2001, I wasn’t going to be flying anywhere right away, and so I rented a car and drove to Vicksburg. Going there was the best research I could have done. I highly recommend visiting the place you are writing about. The people in the town were very helpful and led me to wonderful resources, including the vertical file at the library.
What are your favorite historical novels for middle graders? What appeals to you about them in particular?
I really like the Little House on the Prairie series–what girl doesn’t, right? I also think that Gennifer Choldenko is writing amazing historical fiction books right now about Alcatraz such as Al Capone Does My Shirts. A great historical fiction novel about slavery is Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall. I think historical fiction for kids is so great because it teaches them about a time period while allowing them to get involved in characters’ lives. Half the time, kids don’t even realize they are learning history when they are reading these books.
You also review books, have an editing business, and teach workshops. How do you balance all of this?
That’s a great question! Well, I’m pretty disciplined and work just about every day–even on the weekends and when I don’t feel like it. I have a calendar where I schedule what I need to work on each day, and I just work until I get it done. I also have a family and friends; and so sometimes, I am working into the night or early in the morning in order to get everything finished.
Any particular place you write?
I write mostly from home in my office, but I really enjoy going to coffee shops. When I am feeling a little writer’s block coming on or a poor attitude regarding my work, a change of scenery really helps. The public library is also another great place–and you don’t have to feel like you have to buy anything to use their free Wi-Fi either!
Do you have a writing schedule?
As I mentioned before, I don’t really have a schedule per say–it sort of depends on the day. If my stepson is here and out of school, I usually write in the mornings and at night. In the afternoon, we do activities. Otherwise, I try to write mostly in the morning and afternoon and then use the evening time for other activities, chores, spending time with my husband, and so on. All of this is about to change, however, when I have a baby in December. Then my writing schedule will be determined by her!
What are you working on now?
I am always working on freelance articles and book reviews. For my creative projects, I have a YA novel that I am just about finished revising and a few picture book manuscripts that I take to my critique group–they tell me what is working and what is not–and then I take them back. Soon, they will be sick of these, but hopefully, they will be ready for publication. I am one of those writers who is always working on a ton of projects at the same time. I just can’t help it!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?
The best writing advice I’ve ever gotten is that persistence is what leads to success. Talent is important, and so is perfecting your craft. But the most important thing is definitely persistence. As writers, we can not afford to give up on our dreams. The worst advice–hmmm? That’s a hard question. It’s probably just a comment or two that I’ve received at critique groups that didn’t do my manuscript any good. I’ve probably heard bad advice, but I guess I tuned it out because I just can’t think of any right now.
How did you get started as a writer?
I have always liked to write as most writers have–creating “novels” as a young teenager. Then when I was in high school and college, my creative side took a back burner until in 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine that said, “You can write for children!” This was an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wound up taking their beginner correspondence course, found a local critique group, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If you could be any character in any book, who would you be, and why?
Interesting question, and I think I would have to say–Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. These books, in my opinion, are brilliant. I’ve read them all a few times, and I just can’t get enough. I love Hermione because she is smart, does magic, wears her heart on her sleeve, and is a loyal friend and girlfriend. You can’t ask for a better character than that. Not to mention, I would have LOVED to go to wizarding school!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Figure out your writing goals, and figure out a way to achieve them. We all have busy lives and distractions. Don’t let your distractions get in the way of your writing dreams.
Where can readers find you on the web?
I have a website that tells about me and my editing and speaking services: http://www.margodill.com. I also have a blog where I write about children’s books, and I also have a special section on books and organizations that help women and children around the world. I have a lot of author interviews, book giveaways, ideas for parents and teachers to use with books, and some lesson plan ideas, too. That address is http://margodill.com/blog. I also teach online classes for WOW! Women On Writing. I currently teach three different classes: Social Networking for Writers, Writing Children’s Short Stories and Articles, and Blogging 101. You can find these classes at: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html. Finally, I am an instructor for the Children’s Writers Coaching Club (http://www.cwcoachingclub.com/).
Any last words?
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. Good luck to all the writers out there–go get ’em!