Interview with Annalisa Parent, author of Storytelling for Pantsers
Our speaker for Sunday September 19th Annalisa Parent helps writers to finish, publish and sell their novels. She owns and operates Date with the Muse, LLC, which helps storytellers to publish traditionally at the highest level possible.
A Teacher of the Year nominee for her use of neuroscience principles, she applies these same principles to her work with writers to create confidence, writing flow, and success.
Her book Storytelling for Pantsers: How to Write and Revise your Novel without an Outline helps non-outlining fiction writers to work through the writing and revision process with ease. It’s been lauded by multiple New York Times bestselling-author John David Mann as “brimming over with invaluable practical writerly wisdom…her love of life—pours out of every paragraph. Read her book. It will infuse joy into your days and make you a better writer.”
It is the recipient of a CIPA EVVY humor award. How many writing books do you know of that have earned humor awards?
Annalisa writes for many local, national, and international publications, has written and produced sketches for a Telly-Award winning television show. She has been featured on Huffington Post Live for her fiction writing, CBS, PBS, Associated Press and Korean Broadcast Systems, as well as many international podcasts, radio programs, writing conferences and workshops.
She’s been a graduate professor of English at Norwich University, and a recipient of the French congressional Medal of Honor as a member of a five-week peace-promoting speaking tour of France, in French.
A magna cum laude graduate of Middlebury College’s English Department & Creative Writing program, Parent studied writing under Julia Alvarez and Jay Parini. Since first published at 9 years old, writing had her hooked.
She believes in taking the writing craft seriously without taking herself too seriously, and attempts to heed the wisdom of the ancient Roman poet Horace: “Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: It’s good to be silly at the right moment.
Parent will speak for CWC Berkeley on the topic of Five Insider Secrets to Writing Show-stopping Beginnings.
7 Questions for Annalisa Parent
Interview conducted by publicist and Berkeley CWC member Cristina Deptula of Authors, Large & Small.
What’s the single greatest misconception people have about the transition from writing as a hobby to writing for publication? What would you say to correct it?
One word: audience. When you write as a hobby you have the luxury of only being an artist, but when you write professionally you have to think of your audience, starting with your professional audience: agents and publishers. You need to learn to speak the language of agents and publishers and learn to communicate with them as effectively as you hope to with your readers.
Is writing for publication something that can be taught or do you have to be born with a certain level of ability or potential?
Humanity has argued this since the dawn of time! And it’s both. We all have a certain level of talent but everyone can develop the talent they have. It’s a matter of learning the art of storytelling, that’s the most important aspect of writing a novel.
Also, I’m a bit of a medieval geek. In medieval times, skilled professionals learned their craft as apprentices and then joined guilds for further professional development. So, think of writing as a learnable craft, like weaving or barrel-making.
You have to get it through your head that this is a craft and you have to learn your craft. It takes commitment, falling down and getting back up.
What can a writer do who is short on money and time and isn’t able to do something like the Writing Gym? What sorts of practices help authors improve craft and publishability?
Think of this as preparing for a run. If you’re training for a marathon, you need to have a coach. But you can run a 5K on your own. So, while you should really invest in professional assistance if you’re aiming for something very challenging, there’s certainly much you can do on your own.
And the first thing you should do on your own is read, read, read! Books that you admire that are well-written.
How can an author keep up with what’s going on in the publishing marketplace? And how do you make your story fit the marketplace without sacrificing your originality?
First of all, the Writing Gym has a free podcast, give it a listen. And seek out professional advice from people who understand the publishing industry as well as writing craft. Avoid the blind leading the blind. Even a published author usually doesn’t have an in-depth view of the whole marketplace.
It takes professional skills to be a professional writer. It’s like becoming a doctor. It is definitely expensive and time-consuming to go to medical school, but wouldn’t you rather have a doctor who did that rather than someone who just learned on YouTube because they thought they had enough natural talent not to need med school?
As for keeping your originality and getting published, it’s a balancing act that can involve tough choices. You need both your own personal voice and an audience. If an editor is telling you to change something that’s important to you, think about why it’s important and let them know. Perhaps you’ll help them better understand your project, and they should then be able to suggest workarounds that communicate what you intend.
How much of their own marketing should an author prepare to do after they land a publishing contract?
Prepare to do ALL your own marketing, anticipate that even a traditional publisher will only add icing on the cake.
How can you build a platform when you don’t have a book yet?
I have a whole course on that which I invite you to sign up for online! In the meantime, build an early draft of your website and set up social media profiles where you share links and information related to the topics of your book. Also, identify bloggers, magazines, media outlets (specific radio programs and hosts, newspaper editors, etc), podcasters, social media influencers and reviewers who might be interested in your book. Make a list of these and put that in the marketing section of your book proposal.
Anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?
Yes! I haven’t yet mentioned my use of neuroscience to coach writers on how to get into flow states. This is different for each person and I encourage you to work with your brain to find a process that works for you and your schedule.
More about this, and other topics, on her website, datewiththemuse.com.
Get Tickets to Meet Annalisa Parent for this Sunday
Karma is president and web mistress for the Berkeley California Writers Club. She runs Future Is Fiction Communications, where she helps authors and other creatives spread the word about their projects. She writes poetry, and essays. She loves writing about music and politics.