All Member Spotlights
Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Margaret Porter

author Margaret Porter and her book The Myrtle Wand

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? From childhood, writing has been a significant aspect of my life, my most consistent form of creative expression, and an enduring commitment. My career as a multi-published author is truly a dream transformed into reality. And even though at times it has seemed professionally risky, I cherish the flexibility and opportunities for re-invention and exploration of different genres. For me, writing is an essential medium for our world and these times because of its ability to reach a variety of readers for a multitude of purposes–to entertain, to inform, to enlighten, to spark debate, to persuade, to record facts and events. Whether fiction or nonfiction, a book not only reveals its author’s skill and imagination–through the power of our words, we can reflect or expose the culture and concerns and trends of our times. That’s equally important as we exist in the present, as well as for the people to come after us when they look back.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? To stir my creativity, I can always turn to research for the work-in-progress or for a future novel that might be planned but not yet fully developed. But probably the most effective method for me is stepping aside to focus on some other unrelated activity. Often it’s physical, like walking the dog or gardening–not as an escape, but a relaxed and meditative way to mull over character development or plot or dialogue. Another remedy, which seldom fails, is reading a favorite or a highly recommended book. Good writing, effective prose, fascinating characters inevitably inspire me to return to my own novel with fresh perspective and renewed energy.

What is your favorite time to write? I don’t follow a strict schedule, unless deadline looms. Typically I start in late morning, take a midday break, and continue writing throughout the afternoon. But if I’m nearing the end of a book and feel myself speeding along the downward slope of a roller coaster, adrenaline kicks in. I lose all sense of time and can carry on writing well into the evening. The pandemic period has reduced the number of in-person gatherings, and meetings for volunteer organization moved to Zoom. Rarely leaving the house proved advantageous–running errands or having an appointment is hugely distracting, and I often have difficulty getting back on track after going out into the world, interacting with other humans, dealing with traffic, making real-life decisions! I don’t consider myself a speedy writer–historical fiction is a time-consuming genre. I’m obsessive about accuracy, and I’m a chronic reviser. However, since the onset of the pandemic, I did manage to complete two novels. I can’t realistically expect to repeat that feat, although for a writer, anything is possible!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I’ve heard lots of advice over the years and have doled out plenty of it myself at workshops and in mentoring. My best piece varies, but here’s what’s top of mind right now: Write whatever it is that you most enjoy reading. Partly because it ensures familiarity and comfort with the material, and knowledge of the necessary elements. Or it might pose an irresistible challenge. The best way to learn about writing, in my opinion, is by regular reading. Passion about a particular type of writing or subject can fuel and feed the commitment and perseverance necessary to reach the end of a project. Ours isn’t an easy profession, we encounter so many ups and downs–in our own productivity, or navigating through market changes and a constantly evolving publishing industry. It’s therefore important, and necessary, to love what we’re doing.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? I’m endlessly excited about ever-increasing methods for writers to reach their chosen and appropriate audiences. The pathway to publication isn’t as static and one-directional as it was a generation ago. Or not very many years in the past. Traditional publishing will always exist, but it now encompasses ebooks and audiobooks. The very same technologies enable entrepreneurial authors to independently publish–in print or digital format, or via subscription platforms. Or they can submit to a reputable hybrid publisher with a carefully curated list. Bookstores, such magical places, endure. Yet discovery and purchase are also possible by clicking a computer key or pressing a finger to a phone app. Its increasingly clear that readers who crave books that match their personal tastes, or seek variety, or follow a favorite author, don’t much care about the source or the format. Authors can use social media to promote their work, to garner feedback, and to gather information from agents and publishers and other writers. Online forums and virtual writers’ conferences are other methods of connection and a way to keep abreast of the market for whatever we’re writing. I’ve been professionally involved in this strange and wonderful business for decades. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve had to adjust to new norms. I welcome all the innovation and opportunities currently available to us. And in this great age of many choices for the writer, I’m so thankful for the support and information and communications and services the Authors Guild provides to its membership.

Margaret Porter’s The Myrtle Wand is out now with ‎Gallica Press.