Turning the Pages with Marguerite Richards

Mar 27 2024.

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In the realm of storytelling, where words weave tapestries of human experience, Marguerite Richards stands as an architect of the written word. A writer and independent book editor, her journey spans continents and cultures, shaping her into a steward of memoirs and diverse voices. From California, where she honed her craft amidst the pages of literature and the nuances of translation, to  New York City, where the excitement of magazine publishing fuelled her creative fire,  she followed her heart and ended up in Sri Lanka where she lives with her husband and two sons. Marguerite’s path is one of evolution and exploration.

Marguerite’s writing is a mélange of introspection and exploration which has been published in travel and trade publications. This stands as a testament to her ability to capture the essence of the world in words. In her latest book ‘The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human’ Richards navigates memories where every word is a thread in the fabric of human experience, weaving tales of resilience, redemption, and the enduring power of the written word.

Q  DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK  IN ONE SENTENCE. One sentence only? Sure. I can get crafty with a colon. The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human is a collection of deeply personal stories from all over the world: like first love in Egypt, a birthday while bombs are dropping in Iraq, losing a parent in the Philippines, reminiscing over a kidnapped parrot in Lebanon—there’s even one about an unassuming friendship in Puttalam.

Q  WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FOR  YOUR STORIES? I write and edit non-fiction memoirs, so it all comes from the truth. But the best memoir uses fiction devices in the same way. A very strange Sci-Fi story might inspire me to write a true story about my life. It’s all about the way you tell it.

Q  WHAT ARE YOU  CURRENTLY READING? I read a lot of books at the same time. With small kids I don’t have much time, so it’s like dipping into the candy jar for me. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is my latest favourite. It’s a memoir in the form of a letter to his son. The love you feel for your children creates an unspoken bond with all other parents––it was the perfect way to connect so many readers to his personal story.

Q  WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? I have always written to process my thoughts. Very young, I started writing poetry and letters to friends and family. I wrote my first “book” about a little yellow canary at 10 years old. I remember going around listing canary fun facts to anyone willing to listen.

Q  HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE  OR VOICE? Honest. Engaging, colourful, drawing meaning from the mundane.

Q  WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY DO YOU ADMIRE THEM? So many. I love Margaret Atwood for her economy. She understands that you don’t need a lot of words to convey a ton of information and emotion.

Q  CAN YOU TELL US  ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A  PUBLISHED AUTHOR? Early on I did some reporting and have written dozens of pieces on travel and culture, but have always gravitated toward the big picture in publishing. In graduate school, I built a magazine of translated stories about international food culture. How Kimchi saved Koreans from SARS, the meaning of matte in Argentina…that sort of thing. Then, I ran the magazines for France Tourism in New York and worked on the whole process from printing to digital, editorial to advertising. I’ve always been drawn to learning about new cultures, so it felt natural that my first book is about people living all over the world.

Q  WHAT FICTIONAL CHARACTER RESEMBLES YOU THE MOST? Physically? Big Bird. Aspirationally? Wonder Woman. I’m helping people tell their stories with my lasso of truth. Probably should work on my quads a bit to fully embrace that character though.

Q  TELL US ABOUT A BOOK YOU ENJOYED READING AS A CHILD AND THE EFFECT IT HAD ON YOU. My father denied me television until I read my first big book. Good trick, Dad. Charlotte’s Web was the first. Strong themes of social justice in that book, come to think of it.

Q  WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON SELF-PUBLISHING? Independent publishing is the future of the industry. Print-on-demand technology creates a freedom from cost and stock we’ve never seen before. It’s quite empowering for those who know how to make a beautiful book and understand marketing. In the decades to come, I foresee traditional publishing houses fragmenting into a sea of highly specialized, niche publishing consultants.  

Q  CAN YOU SHARE ANY INSIGHTS ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS? This year I’m focused on helping more people take their life stories to the world, which starts with promoting The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human. Cross-cultural connections are needed more than ever before, and they are also more possible than ever—with personal stories like these. I do a monthly newsletter about my own personal adventures in Sri Lanka.  Readers can get in touch at margueriterichards.com


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook,¬†Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]



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