Meet Margi Preus
Margi Preus is the author of the Newbery Honor book Heart of a Samurai and other books for young readers, including the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award book The Clue in the Trees, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series.
Her books have won multiple awards, landed on the New York Times bestseller list, been honored as ALA/ALSC Notables, selected as an NPR Backseat Book Club pick, chosen for community reads, and translated into many languages. When not writing, Margi enjoys traveling, speaking, and visiting schools all over the world.
Advice for new writers:
“My advice for upcoming writers is to read, but read like a writer. That means you should read writers you admire, and read their work more than once — the first time just for enjoyment, but then many more times to try to figure out how they do what they do. How do they create suspense? Why does this passage make you cry? Or laugh? How do they create characters that you feel you know, that you care about? How do they keep you wanting to turn the pages?
And then, of course, you have to try it for yourself. And try. And try. And try. Keep trying. And believe that you always have something a little better in you. That you cannot run out of ideas, that ideas breed ideas, and your ideas will just get better and better, so use the best one first.”
Inspired by family, their stories, and their love of the outdoors:
“I grew up in a pretty town in Minnesota, in a beautiful area of rolling hills, farms, and hardwood forests. My mother was a pianist, organist, and piano teacher. There was a lot of music in our house, and I learned to play the flute and bassoon, but still turned out to be the least musically talented of anyone in my family of three sisters and two brothers.
My father was a Lutheran pastor. He liked to hunt and fish and walk in the woods, and I liked to walk in the woods with him. I learned a lot about finding my way in the forest and in life from him. He was one of the best and funniest storytellers I've ever known.
My ancestors were all from Norway, but emigrated a long time ago. My book West of the Moon was inspired by my great-great-grandmother’s diary as she emigrated from Norway in 1851. It’s not actually about her, but about a young girl she met on the sailing ship coming to America, a girl traveling all alone with no one to meet her in America.”
Life as an author:
“Before I started writing books for young readers, I had a lot of oddball jobs: I taught swimming lessons in remote Alaskan villages, was a groom at a horse race track, have been an adventure travel guide, a professional note-taker, a dance instructor, a teacher of fiction writing—also children’s literature—and for a large portion of my grown-up life, the artistic director of a theater company in Duluth, Minnesota, where I still live. Writing is now my main job, and I can often be found doing just that in my ‘little house in the backyard,’ pictured here.
When I’m not writing, I like to spend time outdoors skiing, hiking, or paddling a kayak or canoe. Of course I also love to read!”
Books that Margi loves:
“I liked to read when I was a kid, and those books have inspired what I’ve ended up writing. Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Snow Treasure, Nancy Drew—can you guess which of these books inspired which of my stories?
I went through a phase of refusing to read anything that was considered a ‘classic’ so I am now trying to catch up with a lot of great books, and boy, oh boy, do I love E.B. White, for one! I am very sorry I missed him as a kid, but I am making up for it now!”
Schedule a School Visit
Margi would love to visit your school, speak at your conference, or conduct a writing workshop or residency.
In the News
Interviews, reviews and more. For media inquiries, please contact Margi >
Minnesota Public Radio | April 19, 2015
Minnesota Book Awards: And the winners are...
Young People's Literature: "West of the Moon" by Margi Preus // Astri makes a daring escape from a mean goat farmer, retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, the two set off for America. Preus is the Newbery Honor-winning author of five books for young readers. Read more >
Minnesota Public Radio | January 29, 2015
Minnesota Writers Week: Margi Preus
Listen to Margi Preus’s interview on the Daily Circuit for Minnesota Writers Week, a week of interviews with local writers working today. She talks about her inspirations, including the origins of her writing house. “It's all wooded around, so I have a lot of wildlife to look at. This is good, because I do spend quite a bit of time staring out the window — more than I probably should." Listen now >
Book Page | April 2014
Margi Preus: Those plucky Norwegian girls
While many details of her ancestors’ own immigration experience informed “West of the Moon,” Preus says her great-great-grandmother’s brief mention of a girl she met on the ship to America revved up her imagination. “As I read over [those lines in the diary],” she says, “I wondered . . . what kind of girl would get on a boat alone and go to America, not knowing anyone? I thought I’d see if I could figure out a story for her.” Read more >
Minneapolis Star Tribune | April 28, 2014
Middle-grade writer Margi Preus inspired by history
The way Preus imagines it in “West of the Moon,” the girl is escaping treacherous relatives and a lecherous goatherd — a story that springs from fairy tales and Norse mythology, but lands on the cusp of adulthood. “There’s something really wonderful about having one foot in childhood but this awareness that the world is about to get much bigger,” Preus said. Read more >
Duluth News Tribune | December 1, 2013
Obama goes shopping for books, buys one written by Duluth author
Among the president's purchases at Politics & Prose was "Heart of a Samurai," a 2010 young adult novel by Margi Preus that was named a Newbery Honor Book. It's the story of a Japanese teenager who has a series of adventures that lead him to play an important political role -- and realize his lifelong dream. Read more >
National Public Radio | May 31, 2012
Meet Manjiro, Japan's Unlikely Teen Ambassador
With finesse and grace, Preus gets inside the mind of young Manjiro. She serves up gorgeous details of his daily life and transports the reader in time and space. Children today can use a few clicks of the mouse to discover another country or foreign culture. But Manjiro grew up in a completely closed society, and Preus helps explain what it must have been like for Manjiro to land in a world he didn't even know existed. Read more >
Duluth News Tribune | Dec 13, 2010
Two Duluth children's book authors win wider audiences
Two children's stories by local authors have caught the attention of a committee of librarians working in branches of the New York Public Library's list of 100 Books for Reading and Sharing — Chris Monroe's picture book "Sneaky Sheep" and Margi Preus' chapter book "Heart of a Samurai.” “I never expected any such thing. The first reviews that came in I seriously thought were a mistake. They were writing about something else. So to get on these best-of lists, it's amazing to me." Read more >