An Interview with Emily May Portillo

Welcome to SPLASH! Today’s featured author interview is with HWP Contributor Emily May Portillo. We shared Emily’s poem between cities in the 2019 issue of From the Depths. In this short but insightful interview, Emily shares her thoughts on writer’s block and rejection. We love the advice she gives to “aspiring” writers! Enjoy!


Tell us about your writing process. Do you have any writing routines or rituals that you practice?
I’m not anywhere near as disciplined as I’d like to be, so for the most part I write as the words come. I have, however, started trying to write just as I’m about to fall asleep at night. Some of those notes are pretty interesting the following morning.

How do you handle writer’s block?
Not well.. I can wallow in it for weeks at a time. After I haul myself out of the frustration, though, I tend to turn to music (folk, Florence and the Machine, or Fleetwood Mac, usually – alliteration unintended) and head out the door. A walk can solve so many problems, and taking the pressure off is immensely helpful.


The idea of rejection is much more terrifying than the reality of it, and you may be surprised by the opportunities out there waiting for you.

—EMILY MAY PORTILLO


Was there a defining moment that led you down this writerly path or a person who encouraged or helped shape you as a writer?
I had convinced myself for years that there was no future for me in writing. I still turned to it as an outlet, but never dreamt of sharing my work at all, let alone having it published. It took the steadfast support of one brilliant woman to challenge me and propel me forward (although she’d still like to see me move a bit faster.. sorry, Annie!). Without her, I wouldn’t have needed to buy nearly as many pens.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Stop assuming doors are shut and just KNOCK. The idea of rejection is much more terrifying than the reality of it, and you may be surprised by the opportunities out there waiting for you.

What are you reading right now?
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. If you haven’t read it yet, RUN to the nearest library or book store. You won’t regret it.

If you could share any advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?
Drop the “aspiring” and call yourself a writer now. Know that the love of it is enough—that publication is not the only way to define success. You’re a writer. You’re a writer. Practice saying it aloud: “I’m a writer”. Say it again and again until you really believe it. You’re a writer. Now, go write.


FROM THE DEPTHS 2019 No. 17



About the Author

Emily May Portillo is a poet, mother, and avid over-thinker from the Boston area. Most succinctly, she could be described as half wonderer, half wanderer, half headstrong humanitarian, and half hoping you noticed that was too many halves. Her work has been published in various poetry anthologies, as well as the literary magazines “For Women Who Roar” and Haunted Waters Press’s “From the Depths”.

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