I’d like to welcome my friend and children’s author, Margo Dill, to my blog today. She is the author of picture books (pb) as well as books for middle grade readers (MG) and young adults (YA). Her picture book—MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE—The Case of the Missing Cookies, was released earlier this year by Guardian Angel Publishing. Inc
Besides writing for children, Margo is a mother, and a columnist, contributing editor, and instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. She writes weekly book reviews and articles for a local newspaper, teaches an on-line class about writing for children, has her own freelance editing business at Editor 911, is an editor of MG and YA books at High Hill Press, maintains an author blog, and is the webmaster for Missouri SCBWI—Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators.
I’m so glad to have you here on my blog today, Margo!
MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE, is your first picture book. Can you tell us a little bit about your book, and how you came to write it?
Margo: It’s based on a true story about my grandma baking cookies one day, and some disappeared. She blamed my grandpa, but he claimed he didn’t do it. So there was a real life mystery there. It turns out that her beagle, Toby, was to blame. I wanted to write a book about this story because I thought it was really cute. I also loved mysteries (Trixie Belden books) when I was younger and wanted to be a detective—loved to play Charlie’s Angels with my friends. So, I combined my love of my grandma’s story with my love for mysteries and wrote Maggie Mae.
What can you tell us about your path to being published in children’s books? What encouragement helped you along your way?
I listened to the industry experts about my manuscripts when I got feedback from them. For example, with my first book, Finding My Place, I went to a conference, and I volunteered to be a speaker shepherd. I was able to pick up a literary agent from the airport and take her to dinner. When the weekend was over, she invited me to send in my manuscript, which I did, and she offered me written feedback—a whole letter’s worth. She said my history was in the way of my characterization, and she was right. So I went back and revised. Now it’s a published book. I think going to conferences and meeting professionals really helps your career along and gives you opportunities you would not have from your living room.
You write picture books as well as books for MG and YA readers. Is there one genre that you enjoy writing best?
Margo: NO! That’s why I’m all over the place. I currently have a middle-grade and picture book that are almost done, and I’ve been working on a young adult for NaNoWriMo, which is not done, but I have a big chunk of it down on paper finally.
When you have an idea for a book, how do you go about writing it? Do you use an outline? Is there any research involved? Is your process different with different genres?
Margo: I always have an idea and some notes—they are not an outline or a full character sketch, but some ideas that I want to put in the novel or picture book and some details about the character. Then I start writing. I try to get a draft down without editing myself too much. Then I go back and revise, revise, revise. This seems to be the part I get stuck on—when is it done and ready to send out? My critique group is currently using the Snowflake Method (Google it and you’ll find it) quite a bit for planning a novel. We are hoping by planning more than we ever have before that when it comes to the revision process, it won’t be quite so time-consuming.
What draws you to write for children?
Margo: I think it was my love for teaching kids—I used to teach elementary school and preschool. I also loved to read when I was a kid and would follow certain authors, like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, until I read all of their books. Now I have a daughter and stepson, so I am around a lot of children’s books and reading picture books every day. I just think that’s what I’m into right now, and it’s what comes out when I sit down and write.
What other books or authors do you feel have influenced your writing?
Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned here, I tend to like funny picture books and ones that have a twist at the end. So, I love Mo Willems’s pigeon books, Officer Buckle and Gloria or Amelia Bedelia books. As for novels in the historical fiction area, I love Little House on the Prairie, and for young adult, I recently read The Fault in our Stars, and think John Green is an amazing author.
What kind of networking do you do as an author, and how much time to you devote to that?
Too much! No, just kidding. I love networking, especially on social media, but you can really get sucked in. The same is true if you wind up going to too many conferences or serving on too many writing group boards. When I’m asked to volunteer or go to an event, I look at my goals as a writer to see if this request fits in the goals. If it does and I can manage it along with being a parent, then I do it. If not, then I turn it down. As for social media, I try to do it mostly on my phone, like while in waiting rooms, in bed at night when putting my daughter to sleep, etc. Multitasking is the key!
How does your work as an editor help you in your own writing?
I think instead of my work as an editor helping me, it’s more being a member of my critique group. When I am writing something, I can hear their voices saying, “No, you need to do this. . .” I do think that being an editor helps because you get an eye for mistakes and also you read a lot of different writing and genres. So you develop a sense for voice that you might not have if you didn’t read so much.
Can you tell us a little bit about your editing service, Editor 911?
I mostly edit people’s novels or memoirs for content consistency, such as characterization, tension, plot points, setting details, etc. I also do some proofreading work for people who want to self-publish and need a proofreader before they send it to the publisher.
You must be a very organized person, Margo! How do you balance writing, editing, teaching, volunteering for SCBWI and family life?
I don’t sleep much! I prioritize what needs to be done, and I schedule my writing time, like I would schedule anything else. I ask for help. If I have a deadline or project, I ask my parents to babysit. I tell my husband, and we work out when I can go and work at Starbucks to get more done.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given about writing?
Don’t give up. Continue to improve your craft and to learn about publishing, and you will be successful!
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
The same as above. It’s not an easy profession, but it is rewarding. So, don’t give up!
Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your writing life today, Margo. You can find out more about Margo and her books on her website
Margo is currently having a holiday sale on all three books! She includes some goodies, gift wraps her books, and will personalize them for the kiddos in your life. Check that out here! Any purchase of one of her books enters you into a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Drawing on December 18, 2014.
MAGGIE MAE, DETECTIVE EXTRAORDINAIRE, ISBN: 9 781616 335267 51095