Now let’s spend a few minutes with Margo Dill, writer, editor, mom, and former teacher.
You started out as a public school teacher. What happened that made you want to pursue writing and editing instead?
I’m not sure if it was writing and editing instead of teaching because I did love being a teacher. But I started as an English major and have always loved reading and writing. For a while I did both writing and teaching, and then I got married and wanted to start a family. SO. . .it was hard to do both. Working from home as a writer and editor is what I chose to do and be able to stay home with my daughter. I did continue to teach—just not children—in continuing education programs for adults who want to write novels and write for kids.
How has teaching school helped you write your three children’s books?
I think teaching kids gave me an opportunity to be around children’s books and share them with the perfect audience. Kids get super excited about reading—they really do. They love books if they are given the opportunity. So, while teaching, I read a ton. As a parent, I read a ton. Reading these books gives me ideas for my own.
Your website includes a long list of topics you speak on. Which area do you present most often?
The two areas I present the most on are novel writing and children’s writing. I teach online courses and in-person courses about both, and I have been asked to present on children’s writing at several writing conferences. I also do a lot of school visits and reading nights. Depending on what the school wants, I talk about being a published writer and taking a piece of writing through the five-step writing process.
Your workshops seem to be filled with practical information. Would practical be a good word to describe you? What other adjectives fit you?
I believe a lot of writers are searching for practical information. We can read how-to and writing craft books full of theory and ideas for improvement. But when you have the chance to talk with someone in the trenches (a published author), what do you want to learn from him or her? Usually (in my case anyway), I’ve wanted to know “the publishing story”: how did this person persevere, how did he/she get an agent/, and what should I be doing to get myself published too? I try to remember these things when presenting.
As for other adjectives: enthusiastic, energetic and goal-oriented also describe me!
Does running your business cut back on your creative side, or is it all rolled together?
It cuts back. I’m just going to be honest. It’s like having a day job. I actually have two day jobs: my business/marketing my books/freelance writing AND being a mom. Then I have to fit creating my books and finding homes for those into the day, too. Sometimes, there is not enough time. But, my daughter will not be young forever, and so I want to enjoy this time without stressing myself out about the guilt of not writing as much as I did.
Do you allocate certain hours each day for writing, and some for editing and teaching?
No. To be honest once again, I don’t. (smiles) But this is only because every day is different when you are also a stay-at-home mom. That said, I usually have a chunk of time each weekday when my daughter is with her dad or her grandma to write or work, but it’s not always the same time every day. It’s all about what deadline I have to meet at the time or what my bank account needs, at this point. Again, a career is not one year or even four. It’s a lifetime of building your work and your reputation, depending on what is going on in your life, too.
As the memoir editor for High Hill Press, what qualities are you looking for in a submission that makes an excellent memoir?
There has to be a universal message and a unique slant to the memoir. Plus, it has to be well-written. It used to be that you had to have some kind of platform to write a memoir—either be famous or have a topic you could speak about, related to your memoir. Now, with self-publishing and small press, Jane Doe can get a memoir published IF she has a message others can learn from or a unique slant. But EVERYONE believes they have this. So you have to ask yourself—how will my book standout from the hundreds of memoirs on the shelf right now? That’s what I ask myself when I am reading a submission.
You speak about writing what one is passionate about. Do you consider yourself a motivational speaker?
I think most authors are motivational speakers when speaking to writers because our message is mostly: “Stick with it. You can do it. It’s hard, but you can do it if you are willing to work at it.” I can give keynotes that will hopefully inspire, but mostly my workshops are meant to be tips and tools to take home and get yourself published!
What topic will you be focusing on at the All Write Now! Conference?
I am going to be speaking on writing for children and young adults—most likely it will be dos and don’ts for both book writers and short story/magazine writers. Some people think writing for children is easier than writing for adults—but it’s not! I’ve written for both markets, and no matter what, it takes time and effort to create excellent writing for your targeted audience. I’m looking forward to the conference!
I’m looking forward to Margo’s workshop! I’ve heard her speak, whether it was face to face, through a workshop, or from her website, and I always learn something I can use. Thanks to Margo and our other presenters, The All Write Now! conference is going to be a well-spent day.