Tododay’s interview is with Marilyn McFarlane from Portland, OR. Interviewing all of these different writers is quite interesting for me. It is always nice to gain insight into another in the same field.

Maralyn: Could you give us some of your background information?

Marilyn: I live in Portland, Oregon, with my husband and 2 fluffy cats. The Pacific Northwest is wonderful, if too wet at times, but the rest of the world constantly beckons, so I write mostly travel.  A plethora of early jobs—not exactly careers—led me to fulltime freelancing 30 years ago.  Secretary, typist, TV news writer, blood drive organizer, library assistant, gift-wrapper (I tied some pretty fancy bows in my day) and Mom, the non-income producing but most important job.  The travel bug bit when I was a 16-year-old exchange student and kept a rhapsodic journal.  An endless curiosity, a reporter’s instincts, an interest in other countries and cultures, a love of nature … these pushed me into travel writing. The field looks a lot different these days, but still is a great place to wander.

Maralyn: What genre of writing do you prefer?

Marilyn:  I focus on world travel, especially offbeat finds, but I look for an interesting angle even in the most famous, well-trodden places.  Somehow my writing manages to always include food and wine.  Chocolate fits in nicely.

Maralyn: Do you have any tips or suggestions for writers?

Marilyn: A writer could eat up every minute in the day researching, marketing, looking for outlets, agonizing over social media.  What we want to do is write, right? It’s hard to maintain that balance. A few tips:  Follow a few helpful websites and blogs; get active in a writers’ organization (or two—not a dozen); put yourself into an online networking group; attend occasional conferences. Practice yoga, take deep breaths.

Maralyn: Do you blog?

Marilyn: I just started my blog this year and would have done it earlier if I’d known it would be so much fun.  I like writing short, personal, breezy pieces with a sense of place and include useful tidbits for other travelers.  I post links I find interesting and plan to add book reviews. Send me travel-related books and I’ll review them and post links.

Maralyn: That is a nice offer for those reading that have travel books.  How were you inspired to blog?

Marilyn: I got into blogging after being on the organizing committee for Travel & Words, the Pacific NW Travel Writers Conference. We did so much online publicity, I felt comfortable branching into my own blog.

Maralyn: How often do you blog?

Marilyn: I aim for 3 posts a week— and I’ll get there eventually. Since I also write for websites, mainly Europe Up Close, it’s a matter of making the time.  (I hear Danielle Steel writes 18 hours a day. Alas, that won’t work for me.)

Maralyn: Have you discovered an effective means of gaining traffic?

Marilyn: Word of mouth, writers’ organizations, professional media groups, referrals that come from I know not where.

Maralyn: Do you query for your assignments?

Marilyn: As a staff writer for Europe Up Close, I write about wherever I go in Europe, no assignment needed. For print media, I’ll send a query before I write the article unless it’s going to be a reprint or quick rewrite.

Maralyn: Do you attend many writers conference and how do you feel about them?

Marilyn: I love conferences for networking, seeing old friends, and making new contacts. If the substance is useful, all the better. Another NW Writers Conference will be held in 2011, and I’m sure it will be excellent. There’s also a one-day seminar in Portland on Oct. 2, and that promises to be terrific, very helpful to writers. I should know, I’m on the committee to set it up. (

Maralyn: What do you find the most difficult aspect of being a writer?

Marilyn: The same old complaint—so much to do, so little time. One needs to play, after all, and garden and read and sit around with friends and a bottle of wine.

Maralyn: What is your approach to research?

Marilyn: Be observant, talk to strangers, ask a million questions on the road, and Google. Also books, of course. It’s a scattered approach but works.

Maralyn: Do you have any inside tips for those starting out as writers?

Marilyn: Start simple, have a clear, clean site that is easy to navigate. I’m still learning, and am happy to share what I find as I go.

Maralyn: Do you use social networking?

Marilyn: I belong to several professional organizations, online and off, and spread the word there. I follow other blogs and Twitter.  I keep in mind what an SEO expert told me:  80% content, 20% marketing, always. Don’t push it.

Maralyn: Have you written any books?

Marilyn: I’ve written several guidebooks: Best Places to Stay in the Pacific Northwest, Best Places to Stay in California, Quick Escapes in the NW, and others.  A non-travel book that is especially meaningful to me is Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions. No book plans currently.

Maralyn: Where can readers learn about you?

Marilyn: My website is, the blog is (I welcome subscribers and comments, and knowing about other writers’ travel blogs.) Many of my travel stories are at

Thank you Marilyn for your insightful interview. Obviously, I enjoy sharing with others and learning what other writers like. Even though we have so much in common, we also share different insights.

If there are writers out their who would like to be interviewed, please send your e-mail address to and say if you want the author/writer questions or writer/blogger questions.  I send these out as quickly as I can and when you respond, you are entered in queue.

Maralyn D. Hill, President
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success With Writing Where & What in the World
Member: Society of Professional JournalistsFinalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”