The Power of Persistence

Saturday, November 03, 2018
Most successful writers will tell you that the road to success is lined with persistence. Yes, talent is important, but hard work is even more important. I've known this for a long time, but was reminded of this when I was looking over some articles I wrote for the News-Gazette a few years ago. One was an interview with one of my favorite children's authors who is one of the most gracious and generous people I know, Alice B. McGinty. Alice has written several children's picture books, including non-fiction books for elementary kids about Ghandi and Darwin, and my daughter's favorites, Eliza's Kindergarten Surprise and Eliza's Kindergarten Pet.

When I interviewed Alice for the article, she told me all about her career, and it was so inspiring. It was so inspiring that I wanted to share parts of it with you on WOW! because I think it will inspire you too. And I know that some of you are busy with your first weekend of NaNoWriMo, so you can use a little inspiration!

Here are some highlights from my talk with Alice:

  • When Alice talks to children and adults about writing, she likes to "emphasize persistence. It took me many, many tries, and I didn't give up," she said. She is referring to the 13 years where she wrote and submitted picture book manuscripts to publishers before Dial Books For Young Readers finally accepted Ten Little Lambs for publication.
  • When Alice first knew she wanted to write for children, she "didn't realize you could do it full time." She wrote a poem and a story for two children's magazines, but she wanted to focus on books. She started with a picture book manuscript about a child with disabilities, submitted it to publishers, and collected rejections. Then, she went to a book signing and asked the author for some advice about writing for children.
  • The author told her to join SCBWI ( Alice followed the advice, which she believed started her on her career path. Through SCBWI, she learned it was easier to get a children's nonfiction book published. She wrote a manuscript about nutrition and sent it to Rosen Publishing, which she'd read was accepting manuscripts in an SCBWI Bulletin. Rosen Publishing's imprint, PowerKids Press, held onto the manuscript for a long time and sent it back with a note for revisions. This eventually turned into her first published book, Eating Right, for the educational market in 1997.
  • Between 1997 and 2008, she wrote 35 books for the educational market!

If she would have given up after that first rejection, she would have never written all those educational books, gotten a literary agent, been an Illinois rep for SCBWI, or wrote several successful traditionally published picture books. She didn't give up after one rejection; actually, she didn't give up after many rejections and many years. Check out everything she is doing here

What I wanted to show you with this post is that persistence pays off. This is a real-life example of hard work leading to success. Whether it's finishing your manuscript this November, marketing your book, getting a story published in a literary journal, or getting a job as an editor--don't give up. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, speaker, editor, instructor, and mom, living in St. Louis. You can find out more about her writing on her website here, her editing business here, and the classes she teaches for WOW! here.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Great post. Getting a book published (I imagine) is a path paved with good intentions... and then following through on them. Talent, persistence, thick skin--we need them all.

By the way, how are you doing on your novel? Inquiring minds want to know. :)

Sally Lotz said...

Thanks for the reminder to be persistent. The writer life is rejection after rejection. It's nice to read about another author who struggled, didn't give up and in the end succeeded.

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, Sioux. My manuscript is going well. I'm trying to finish it in November. I think I am now at 68,000 words and many many post-it notes with ideas for when I revise it (stapled together in a pile on my desk!). I am happy to say that the story is getting clearer and clearer to me, and that the way I have written this book has been a very interesting process.

Sally: Thanks for your comment! If you could meet Alice, you would also know that during all this, she had to overcome some personal challenges, too. She is just amazing, and when I saw that article I had written about her 10 years ago, I thought: it's time to repurpose this. We hear all about the success of authors like J.K. Rowling and the author of The Help, who didn't quit after rejections, but what about people who are working full time at writing, like Alice? I wanted to tell her story!

Marcia Peterson said...

This is inspiring. Thanks for sharing it!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing! I am just beginning my journey and need to be reminded that not everything i write needs to be a masterpiece.

Alice McGinty said...

Thank you, Margo!! Sending hugs your way and hope that YOUR persistence and hard work is paying off as well! --Alice McGinty

Margo Dill said...

Alice: So glad you saw this. :) I was going to send you a PM on Facebook and then the weekend happened. LOL

I mean every word, and I miss you! So glad I was reviewing my old NG articles and found this one to share with everyone.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Margo ~ Excellent post on persistence! I remember you interviewed Alice for your WOW article on Writing for the Educational Market. That's amazing she wrote 35 books for that market. I can't even imagine writing 35 books! I've wanted to write a book for years but really never had the determination to do it until right now, during NaNo. In 4 days I've written over 10,000 words, so I'm really happy I signed up. And this time, I'm going to stay persistent and think of writers like you and Alice next year when I'm revising. Our blog tour author in today's post worked on her book for 10 years before finding a publisher, and that gives me a lot of hope! The book I'm writing now is something I started thirteen years ago as a novel, fictionalized it and gave it a twist, so when I started writing during Nano, I pulled it up and it's absolutely horrible, but I'm glad I wrote some details down that will help me write this draft. I've wanted to tell this story for a long time, and I'm excited I'm actually working on it again. Cheers to persistence! :)

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