Margo L. Dill is a YA and children’s book author living in St. Louis, Missouri. I have had the pleasure of working with Margo as an editor on my book, Hollywood, and Catholic Women. She is the proprietor of Editor 9-1- 1. She is a working, single mom of a six-year-old daughter, Katie. Margo has graciously agreed to be the first author interview for my Author Interview Series
Kathryn Schleich: You’ve noted on your website that as a woman in your forties, you’ve been through a lot of experiences many have: divorce, single parenting, dealing with illness, elderly parents, going back to work full-time. But one thing you said really struck a personal cord with me – you stopped writing creatively. How did you get your creative groove back?
Margo Dill: I’m still working on that. But I think what’s working is that I gave myself a break and I didn’t give up my writing life. I just changed it. I started my blog, which has many personal posts. I continued writing for Women On Writing (WOW!), and teaching fiction writing classes. I also work on a novel or short piece when it calls to me. Through these avenues, I have been able to keep my creativity flowing (somewhat). I hope, in time, it will come back full swing.
KS: You have gone through a great deal of changes in the last few years. In devoting your blog to some of those events, has that been cathartic? What else have you gained?
MD: As I mentioned, it has kept me writing and some creativity in my life. Even though most of what I write is currently non-fiction, there’s still a creative edge to it. I have to craft the words. I have to figure out the best way to relay the message that I want to get out. I have to organize the piece to reach and touch my audience. It’s very affirming when someone reads my writing that is true and comments on my blog, on Facebook, or sends me a message. It gives me hope—that writing can touch others, that my writing has a purpose and a goal.
KS: You are both an author and speaker. Because of the upheaval in your life, have the writing and speaking communities you address evolved as your personal life changed?
MD: I haven’t done much speaking since I secured a full-time job. Currently, I’m not pursuing speaking engagements, but I will say that my writing audience is only different because my subject matter is not really for children anymore. I did have quite a few adult readers, especially of my young adult novel.
KS: Are there positive aspects (particularly in your writing) that have come from all this?
MD: I found this to be a hard question—but an important one. (smiles) It has become obvious to me that women readers (especially) connect with writers who share themselves openly and honestly on the page. I think this is one reason why memoirs and books like Chicken Soup for the Soul are so popular. I have learned that honesty on the page connects with readers.
KS: Your website has a great tagline: Be unique. Be strong. Be yourself, targeting young girls and providing positive role models. Your three books all have strong, smart, and adventurous female characters. What other ways are you getting that message across? (A few years ago, you mentioned part of your mission as being a positive female role model, something I want to accomplish with my site as well). What have been some of your accomplishments in living up that tagline?
MD: I think the posts on my blog model a strong woman (I hope so anyway). I also try to promote a positive message that everyone needs to be true to who they are. I would say my books do the same thing. All three main characters have an inner strength that helps them reach their goals by the end of the book. I am trying to live my life that way, too. I am trying to find and use my inner strength to raise a strong and confident daughter (and she seems well on her way), so I take that as my biggest accomplishment.
KS: What made you decide to write for children and young adults? Your background as an educator, I presume, has something to do with that?
MD: That is exactly right. I was teaching elementary school when I started writing seriously, and so my focus was on creating books that kids would love, and teachers could use in the classroom. Then my writing kind of grew from there, thanks to a remarkable critique group that I found at a community center. I branched out and wrote what called to me, whether it was newspaper articles, personal essays, adult short stories, poetry, etc.
KS: All your books have gotten excellent reviews, but I especially love, Caught Between Two Curses with its feisty, smart, independent, 17-year- old heroine, Jules. In reading some of the reviews, a reader wrote in 2016 the day after the Cubs won the World Series ending the curse, that the novel’s timing was perfect, and they were “proud to know an author who apparently is a mystic of some kind!” Did you have faith the Cubs would finally break the curse? Should fortune-telling be listed as another one of your many talents? If you could have a super-power, what would it be?
MD: Thank you so much. And no, I’m no fortune teller, but you know, the goat curse had to be broken at some point! (Laughs) That book is out of print now, but I do have some copies still at home if anyone wants to read it. I have thought about self-publishing it with an extra short story in there, but now my writing seems to be taking me to a different place, so I don’t know. . . I have never really been one to follow “what you are supposed to do” (write in the same genre, build a brand, create a series). I really wrote the novel because of two separate stories I saw on the news about a little girl who survived a car crash when her parents didn’t, and Steve Bartman catching that ball in center field back in 2003 at a postseason Cubs game. It made me wonder about fate and destiny and curses, and out came: Caught Between Two Curses. I never thought the Cubs would do it, being a Cardinals fan. But miracles do happen!If I had a superpower, it would be like Samantha on Bewitched! I would like to use my nose to clean my house and prepare dinner.
KS: I always thought I’d want to be invisible, but twitching my nose to clean my house and cook dinner would be awesome and I’d probably eat better too. Speaking of Curses, Jules was such a great character. She was a teenager, but also mature as she faces the advent of adulthood. Any plans to write another book featuring more adventures with Jules as she grows up?
MD: I don’t want to say never, but currently there are no plans underway. I have thought about a short story featuring Grandma as a teenager, but that hasn’t happened yet either. We’ll see—I never say never about writing because I have learned that life takes you in places you never thought you would go, and your writing seems to go along with it.
KS: You have many different personae – author, speaker, editor, writing coach, and teacher. Is there one that you embrace, or do they all have the same amount of importance in your life?
MD: I think they all make up who I am. I can’t take out anyone because each of those has brought me to where I am today in my career. Currently, I do more writing coaching and editing than writing, speaking, and teaching; and that’s okay. I wouldn’t be able to be a worthy writing coach or editor if I hadn’t dedicated so much time to writing and speaking earlier in my career. With writing coaching and editing, I can still work from home easily with my daughter there.
KS: What do you see as your writing goals in five years? Ten?
MD: In the short term, I would really like to delve into more non-fiction writing and short story or essay writing. I have a few very strong beliefs (okay, that’s an understatement) about practical parenting, surviving divorce, self-esteem, and writing in general. I’m not sure if this will become a book, self- published or not. I need to explore exactly where this is all taking me. For now, I have written one parenting essay, which I need to get out in the world, and I have my blog posts on my website and on WOW!
In 10 years, I would like to finish one of these three novels I currently have in various stages on my computer. Or maybe something else will inspire me.
KS: Does Katie have the writer’s gene like her mom?
MD: For a while, she said she wanted to be a writer, but now she wants to be a pop star! HA! She does write songs, and she makes books at school. I think this means she will at least keep creativity in her life, which makes me super proud because I think it is important for everyone.
KS: What’s the best advice you could give her or any struggling writer?
MD: My advice for struggling writers is to follow their heart. Writing is not easy. Figure out what you want from writing—do you want a career? Do you just want a place to express yourself? Then figure out the steps it takes to meet your goals. And don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you want a career in writing, it takes work and education (you don’t have to take classes, but you need to read blogs and books and work at it). Finally, surround yourself with writers—hopefully, you live someplace, like St. Louis, where there are multiple writing groups to join. But if not, there are a ton of online groups—get yourself in one that fits you, and you will see your writing grow!
KS: What inspires you? I also love that you’ve incorporated a line from Wicked’s “Defying Gravity” as a way of pursuing your dreams.
MD: People’s stories inspire me. Wanting to leave something my daughter will be proud of inspires me. Wanting to help others who have had similar experiences as myself also is inspiring.
Margo L. Dill is the author of the parenting blog, Look to the Western Sky, is a contributor to the WOW! Women On Writing ezine, serving as an instructor, blogger, editor, contest judge, and social media manager, and owns her editing business, Editor 9-1- 1. If that weren’t enough, Margo works full-time for a St. Louis publishing company, and is the author of three books, each of which portrays strong heroines: Finding My Place, Maggie Mae Detective Extraordinaire, and the YA novel, Caught Between Two Curses.