Margo Solod has been an innkeeper, restaurant owner, chef, lighting designer, carpenter, and factory worker. She will do most anything to support her writing habit.
After 20 years of traveling, 4 poetry chapbooks, 1 full-length book of poetry, 100+ published poems in 70+ magazines and 6 anthologies, 1 memoir with recipes, 3 trucks, and 9 sets of tires, she has settled in the middle of 68 acres in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her partner of more than 14 years and a varying assortment of rescued shelter dogs.
In her own words:
I came to writing fairly late. That is, I did not grow up, as many of my friends did, knowing I had to write.
I dabbled in school; a few poetry contests as a child, and one brilliant 4th act to Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in college where I turned that classic drama into a mystery. I still don’t understand why that version didn’t catch on and make me a million dollars. But after that class I put down the pen and picked up first a crescent wrench, then a hammer, and finally a chef’s knife. (I prefer a 6″ Henkel with a plastic handle. For the knife, that is. I never had a brand preference in hammers or wrenches.)
I moved to a remote island, and during one long lonely winter I began to write again, returning to my first love, poetry. This was back in the ancient era of typewriters and actual snail mail anchored by handwritten letters. In this way I received what little “formal” writing training I have; thick brown envelopes of poems sent back and forth between myself and a few amazing teachers I who were willing to try and teach me by mail.
Slowly my poetry improved, and I got bold enough to send work out. At first, individual poems to small literary magazines and then, as these began to be accepted with some regularity, chapbooks of themed poetry to contests. While searching for contests I found Flight Of The Mind, a writing workshop for women that ran every summer for two weeks in a monastery in Oregon. I made friends and met mentors there that have remained valuable resources to me to this day.
I applied to and was accepted at the Vermont Studio Center. I published my first and second chapbooks and won a few minor awards. And I came to the realization it was time to leave the island and begin on career four, or maybe five. At a certain point you lose track.
During several of my previous careers I’d moved around a lot, and I’d decided that when I settled down I would try the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
And that, dear reader, is where the official bio picks up. I traded Vermont for Virginia Center for Creative Arts, an artist’s residency that has afforded me much time and space to create. I published two more chapbooks and a full length book of poetry, and then, seemingly, I was done with that genre. I haven’t written a poem since 2006. Next I turned my hand (or more aptly, my fingers) to creative non-fiction, and published a memoir of place dealing with my island years. And that appears to have been the beginning and end of my nonfiction career.
Now I’m working on a trilogy of ‘tween adventure novels, set on an island suspiciously similar to the one I lived on for so long. After I finish those, I think I’d like to try my hand at a YA novel. I have all these ideas . . .
If I had the temerity to give anyone advice about writing, it would be this- READ. Read everything, and anything. Then turn off the editor in your head and let your imagination go.
What inspires you to write?
If you are talking about some great concept, like “I write because I want to make the world a better place,” or “I write because I must ,” I’m afraid you are talking to the wrong girl. I write because I like to. If you want something concrete- almost anything can inspire me. Ideas come to me when I am walking, when I overhear a conversation in a restaurant or on the street, when I pass an old, crumbling house or notice something somewhere that doesn’t quite fit in. There’s a seed planted then. Often it sits dormant for weeks or months, then another sight or sound will bring it back and it, and I will take off. When I was writing poetry I would do a freewrite and put it away, then come back weeks or months later to see if I could pull a poem out of it. Now that I am writing fiction, I think- Oh, my character would: say that, live there, be intrigued by that.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am and have always been a seat of the pants writer. I rarely have an idea where anything is going. I write with a voice program called Dragonspeak so my process in even more freeform than most people’s as I am basically telling stories to myself. For this latest project, a trilogy of ‘tween novels, I start out with a character (a young girl on an island)and the idea for a situation-(a family of coyotes, a thief, a hurricane.) then I plop my character in the middle of the situation and see what she does.
I admire people who can outline a whole plot before they begin. It seems a much cleaner way to write. But I think my way is more exciting. Because I never know what’s going to happen until it is on the page.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t actually talk or listen to my characters, but I am constantly looking for them in my real life surroundings. That is, I pick up snippets from conversations around me, looks and gestures from people I encounter. And I spend a lot of time imagining what I would do if I were in the situation a character is in. If the character is my complete opposite I think of someone I know who is similar and imagine what they might do.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read. You can’t expect to write if you don’t read. Read everything, but especially in your genre. When I first decided to write for tweens I went to the local library and asked the librarian for recommendations. Then I read probably close to 100 tween novels to get a feel for plot, character, pacing and nuance. But read, no matter what you are writing. Everything you learn will come in handy someday.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I’ve done it both ways. I have self-published and published with several different houses. It has certainly been helpful to have a publisher, and both Mayapple press (who published my full- length book of poetry,) and Brandylane press, publishers of my Summerhood Island ‘tween series, have been wonderful to work with. I think if you can get a publisher you like, definitely go with them. The advantage they can give you in terms of promotion and publicity, as well as getting your books into retail outlets is well worth any control you might have to give up. And of course, it is much cheaper up front, as you don’t have to pay an editor or to get the book printed. But unless you land a contract with a major press and they decide to fast track your book, you re till going to have to do most of the selling yourself.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I would like to think there will always be a place for actual books, printed on real paper. I realize the future will probably be in electronic publishing, with downloadable content. I don’t see why there can’t be both. But I am an old geezer when it comes to the hows and whys of computers and what they can do. The future could well be in interactive video books. Me, I’ll stick with paper, and maybe my trusty old kindle for long trips when it’s not practical to pack 10 books.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
I’ve written 4 chapbooks and a full length book of poetry, a memoir with recipes and the first in a trilogy of ‘tween fiction novels. I’ve always wanted to write a mystery, and I’d like to write a YA novel.
What formats are your books in?