Wednesday, April 08, 2009


In the Face of Criticism and Rejection

Have you ever felt like this poor Boxer in the picture when you have received a rejection or listened to criticism on your work or read a bad review about your book? I know I have. But what do you think this dog is going to do in an hour or two? Still look defeated and like he lost his best friend? No way! If you know anything about Boxers, he'll be wagging his tail and chasing a ball. Who knew we could learn an important lesson from a dog?

I attended the Missouri Writers' Guild conference this weekend and part of the program was called, "First Reads." This is where one to two pages of a conference attendee's manuscript is read aloud (anonymously), and then editors or agents comment on what they think about the piece. Would they keep reading if it showed up on their desks? What did they like? What didn't they like? and so on. I've been to several of these types of programs at conferences, and the good news is they are very helpful to see inside the minds of the people whom we want to represent and publish our work. The bad news is these sessions are often brutal.

The panel of editors and agents voicing their opinions on the "First Reads" are often like the American Idol judges. There's a Simon, there's a Paula, and there's a Kara/Randy. And the "Simon" editor ALWAYS winds up hurting some writer's feelings to the point where the writer doesn't want to attend the rest of the conference.

So, I decided to write this blog for two reasons. One--as a warning--if you are a new writer or are very sensitive to criticism of your work, then you SHOULD NOT put your work in these types of sessions. The advice you hear on other people's work is still valuable, and you can learn from them. Go to a few conference or critique group sessions before you participate in a First Read.

Number two is my larger point. As writers, we need to develop thick skin and a bounce-back ability because this career is hard. Even if you are the most wonderful writer in the world, someone isn't going to like your work. What's that cliche? You can't please everybody all the time, and that definitely applies here. If you want to be a successful writer, you're going to have to learn to face rejection and criticism, pout for a while like our Boxer above, and then go wag your tail and chase your dream.

If you are an American Idol fan, as I am, then I'll close with this. . .this season Adam Lambert is by far the best singer. He's favored to win more than any other contestant before, I think. On all the American Idol sites, he's what the commentators write about. I think he's great, and I can't wait for his performance each week. BUT. . .I'm sure we could easily find people who don't like him for one reason or another. They are rejecting him. Do you think Adam Lambert should go home and not attend the rest of the contest because of these rejections and criticisms? "Of course not," you say. "He would be crazy!" So, think about that the next time you want to give up when you're handed a rejection.

Happy writing!
Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them (blog)
photo by dbking

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Friday, January 23, 2009


Getting People to Your Writing Events

Publicizing a writer's event is something that is on my mind these days as I work as the publicity chair for the 94th Annual Missouri Writers' Guild conference, held in Cape Girardeau on April 3, 4, and 5. I am excited to be involved with this project as we are going to have some WONDERUL speakers, including WOW!'s very own editors--Angela Mackintosh and Annette Fix--as well as TV Writer Lee Goldberg, Simon and Schuster editor Kate Angelella, and Pulitizer Prize nominee Harvey Stanbrough.

It's also on my mind because as I become more involved with social networking, blogging, listservs, and email newsletters, I see several events such as book signings, writing classes, workshops, and conferences advertised every day. On Facebook, I am invited to several different events, and I wish I could attend them all but distance, time, and expense play a factor in my being able to attend.

So, how do you make your event stand out above the rest? How do you get more than just your family to your book signing? This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and so far I've come up with only a couple answers. I'm hoping some of you, Muffin readers, will have some more ideas.

Here's what I think:

1. You must offer something in return to your attendees for their time and money. One of my writing friends, Alice McGinty, who writes for children, often offers a craft and refreshments at her book signings. Her craft goes along with her books and makes people want to bring their children for an hour or two of entertainment by a children's author.

At the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference in Cape Girardeau, we are offering attendees, for the price of admission, at least one face-to-face meeting with an agent or editor. So, not only do conference attendees get a weekend of writing workshops and networking opportunities, they also get a chance to meet with a professional that they might not normally meet. Many authors have gotten published this way.

2. Another way to make your event stand out is for YOU to attend others' events. It's kind of like that old saying, "If I scratch your back, then you'll scratch mine." Be as supportive as you can of others' careers. You obviously can't attend everything that comes your way, but you can email friends about opportunities or include listings on your blog and so on.

3. And finally network, network, network. If people know you and respect you, they are more likely to attend something you are recommending.

Please share any other ideas you have!

Happy publicizing!

Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them (blog)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


Look To Your State!

On the Premium Green discussion group (for information on how to join this group, check out ), we recently had a discussion about critique groups. One writer suggested looking to state groups to find a critique group. That was a great suggestion!

I have a lot of experience with one state group in particular. I recently finished serving as president of the Missouri Writers' Guild ( This group has 13 chapters throughout Missouri and Kansas. From these 13 chapters, several smaller critique groups exist--some online but most face-to-face.

But state groups are important not just because you can find someone to read your work, they provide exposure to successful national and regional speakers such as authors, editors, and agents. Hundreds of writers join these groups, which provides hundreds of networking opportunities. The Missouri Writers' Guild (MWG) offers their members an online bio, an ad on the speakers' bureau, their own web page, a quarterly newsletter full of useful information, and contests for published work. I have met hundreds of writers and have felt part of a community since joining MWG, and I still belong even though I live in Illinois. In many state organizations, such as the MWG, you don' t have to live in the state.

Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc ( is another great state organization. Like the MWG, the Oklahoma group sponsors a yearly conference full of wonderful speakers from all over the United States. This conference is usually held the first weekend of May and in a beautiful Embassy Suites hotel in Oklahoma City--that means a FREE great breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets and a FREE happy hour with snacks. (You can tell I'm a writer, I'm looking for the FREE stuff.) Every time, I've attended this conference, I've learned a lot, met lifetime friends and contacts, and had a blast. It's probably too late to go this year now, but look into this state organization, and mark your calendars for 2009. Same for the MWG conference, which usually offers one-to-one pitches with editors and agents. Their conference is April 3-5, 2009.

Another way to belong to a state group is to join a national group, and then you're automatically a member of the state chapter. I am a member of the Illinois Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators because I paid my national dues. The IL-SCBWI is a wonderful, active organization, which I am a part of for "FREE" because I pay no extra dues to the state chapter. A lot of national groups are organized in a similar way, so check these out, too.

It's important to connect and network with other writers when you're a writer--not just for critique but for information, education, and opportunity. State groups are great at providing these three important tools. If you are looking for a group, you can do an Internet search on a search engine such as Google ( for (State Name) Writing Groups. When I did it for Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma, a ton of groups popped up--local and state. And remember, you don't always have to live in the state to be a member. In today's technology age, you can honestly live in Timbuktu and still join up!

The important thing is get connected and soon.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

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