Margaret Willey

Margaret Willey has written numerous books for readers of all ages during a career that spans decades. She is the recipient of the Charlotte Zolotow Award, and her novels have been recognized by the ALA for excellence. She lives in Michigan with her husband.

She has won various awards:

The Green Earth Book Awards Honor Award for Summer of Silk Moths (2009)

The 2011 Gwen Frostic Award for impacting literacy in home state of Michigan

The 2002 Charlotte Zolotow Award for Clever Beatrice (a Michigan folktale)

Many ALA Awards over the years.


Book Trailer for Four Secrets:



Today we are joined by Margaret Willey for Six Minutes with an Author! Margaret’s books include Clever Beatrice, The 3 Bears and Goldilocks, A Summer of Silk Moths, Four Secrets and her most recent book, Beetle Boy, a young adult novel which was recently published. Beetle Boy was named a Publishers Weekly Book of the Week for September 1, 2014.


How did you get started writing?


I started writing to publish and be read in my late twenties, after many years of writing only privately, in journals and diaries, out of a great need to express myself and process my experiences with family ties, friends and early romantic relationships. I look back on that so-private time of writing with great appreciation; it was like my boot camp for writing about adolescence.


Who influenced you?


It was mostly books. I loved certain books so much. They became my friends and taught me things about growing up that no one else was talking about. My mother, who knew that I was as passionate about reading as she was, guided me to several classic novels about coming of age, all published before there was a YA genre as we know it today. Those books are still important to me today. One of them was A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter published over 100 years ago, which inspired me to write a tribute novel, a modern version, A Summer of Silk Moths (Flux 2009).


Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?


I do not! I write in lots of different genres and even different styles. For example my folktales, the Clever Beatrice books, are worlds away in tone and style from the mystery writing I did for Four Secrets. And I started out writing YA novels that focused entirely on the experiences of girls; now I am writing novels with male narrators, like Charlie Porter in Beetle Boy. Partly this comes from writing books for a long time—30 years! But it’s also part of who I am as a writer—all over the place. I never get bored.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?


The usual advice—read a lot, write a lot, but don’t be overly concerned with publishing until you’ve grown up as a person and a writer. Write about things you care deeply about. Keep everything—you can use it later. Bring the riddles of your own life and your own childhood into your stories—this will give your writing depth. Share your work with other people who want to become better writers. Read books about improving your skills and take classes and workshops. Take your time. Consider all advice and be open to criticism, but not too much. Develop your own voice and vision. Move forward in your life, but keep looking back in your writing.


Where is your favorite place to write?


It changes. Lately it’s in my kitchen, in the mornings. I have an office but writers can work anywhere. One of the many gifts of the profession.


What else would you like to tell us?


I have recently been working on a collection of personal essays about my childhood in St. Joseph, Michigan. I feel that this has been the most challenging undertaking of my writing life because of issues of memory, honesty, fairness and privacy. But it is such necessary work. I have been putting off facing my own childhood demons and now I must do it. The effort has taught me that writing with honesty—telling your story—can be a life-long challenge and joy. That is what I want to stress. The challenge and the joy of the long haul.


Margaret, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick!





Margaret Willey