Thursday, November 15, 2012

* Guest Post - Margo Dill *

* I'm very happy to have a guest blogger today:  Wonderful writer and friend, Margo Dill. *

I met Margo in 2007 when I attended my very first writers conference. It was the (MWG) Missouri Writers Guild Annual Conference and Margo was the chair. Talk about feeling surrounded by a multitude of talented writers! I definitely experienced anxiety and felt very out of place! But Margo made me feel so welcome, from my first (and probably really dumb) question. 

And so if you don't know the lovely Margo, you'll be happy to meet her. Take it away, Margo!

Facing Obstacles and Winning:  How Finding My Place Became a Book
by Margo Dill

Writing a historical fiction novel for kids is not as easy as you might think--especially when you have some obstacles like I did. The first obstacle occurred on September 14, 2011—three days after 9/11. I was supposed to fly to Baton Rouge to visit my best friend for a few days, rent a car, and then drive to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where my book is set, to do research. Needless to say, I did not fly three days after 9/11; but I did rent a car, against my mother’s best wishes (due to all the rumors of terrorists still planning attacks), and drove to Vicksburg.

Going to the city where I set my book was the best choice I made. I left St. Charles, MO planning to write one book; and when I left Vicksburg a few days later, I had a much better story, along with a deeper understanding of how the citizens of Vicksburg had to live in caves dug out of the yellow hills while the Union Army shot at them day and night. I understood just how close the battlefield was to the town and how the citizens were in-between the Mississippi River and the battlefield—right in the middle of the line of fire.

One of the very best resources was COMPLETELY free and easy to access at the Vicksburg Public Library—the vertical files. I actually found a copy of an 1863 Vicksburg newspaper printed on the back of wallpaper and read an account of a mother being killed while fleeing with her children to their cave. Both of these I worked into my novel.

I wish I could say that I came home, wrote the novel, took it to critique group, revised it, submitted it, and got a contract. But that is far from the truth. Obviously if Finding My Place just came out on October 1, 2012, this process took eleven years! From 2007 to 2012, I was waiting for the book to be published—White Mane Kids changed their business model once the economy started to have trouble, and my book got put on hold.

But from 2001 to 2006, I wrote the novel, rewrote the novel, took it to one critique group, moved to be closer to my husband, took it to another critique group, and went to conferences to meet agents and editors. I won’t go into detail about all of this, but I will tell you I LISTENED to the rejection feedback I received, and it made all the difference. (Note: You should always go with your gut on whether or not someone giving a critique is offering good advice. You don’t have to change your manuscript based on a critique. But be honest with yourself—do you trust the person? Does he or she know writing?)

When I sent my manuscript to the agent I shepherded (picked her up from the airport,  introduced her at her talk) for the 2005 Missouri Writer’s Guild conference and she said I needed more layers to my story and main character Anna, I wiped my tears, and my critique group helped me. The manuscript got stronger and better. Then I sent a query to Emily Easton at Walker Company, and she asked to see the whole thing!

Then she wrote me the NICEST rejection and said that my historical fiction book wasn't for the trade marketplace but perfect for the school and library market. So, I started looking into companies that geared their books to teachers, saw a submission call from White Mane Kids, and sent a query.
Believe me, rejections hurt, and I've had my fair share. But I’m so glad that after I wiped my tears—I listened to these experts. If I wouldn't have, I wouldn't be holding my beautiful book in my hands today.

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction middle-grade novel about 13-year-old Anna Green and her struggle to keep her family together during the Siege of Vicksburg.

To read a summary or purchase an autographed copy (a perfect Christmas present for children ages 9 to 12!), please go to  

** Also, for everyone who leaves a comment here, Margo is offering one of two professional critiques/evaluations. There will be one winner and she/he may choose one of the following:

**Professional critique of the first 5 pages of any novel, nonfiction work, or short story


**Professional evaluation of a blog or social media profile with a written summary of what works and suggestions

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