Interview with Jo Parfitt

IamExpat contributor and serial expat Jo Parfitt is a jack of all trades - author, publisher, speaker and writing mentor. Having published 27 books of her own as well as thousands of articles, this writing dynamo now focuses the majority of her attention toward helping expats get their books written and published. Parfitt runs Summertime Publishing and lives in The Hague with her husband and two sons.

You know firsthand as an expat "accompanying partner" the challenges of developing and maintaining a career. Yet you have been highly successful while expanding your career portfolio.
While my career may be portable and constantly evolving, I run a real business. To do this I have tried not only to sustain my career overseas but to grow it too. It is hard to do that when you move from country to country, but it is possible. I believe that networking is invaluable.

With the advent of the Internet and social media networks, I have been a strong advocate of growing both local and global networks. This is the key to the growth of my business. You have to look for trends and take advantage of the opportunities that do present themselves in each country. So I ran a CV writing service in Dubai and wrote a cookbook in Oman, writing articles throughout. I established Summertime Publishing while back in England, and have continued it ever since. In Norway I switched back to more journalism, and so on. That is what it is all about.

Would you please elaborate on your credo on your writing blog: "Sharing what I know to help others to grow." 
I love to teach and mentor others. Of course writing is my passion and my skill, so I write books, articles and blogs, too. Everything I do is based on my experience. The content of my workshops and writing is simply what I know. I know about how to write a book. I’ve been published by giants such as Macmillan and Octopus and have run my own press since 1997, so I know about publishing and being published. I know about how to sustain and grow a portable career. I simply disseminate my knowledge as far and as wide as I can.

Your business has grown steadily over the years, and it is a challenge for one person to continue doing everything.
After 20+ years as a journalist, I have now parked that career though I still teach others about writing articles. It is the publishing that has become my current focus. After years of being published by others I moved to publish my own books and then, during the last couple of years, I began to publish others. My business now is mainly focused on helping expats to write and publish their books.

Is there a particular style of book you look for when considering whether to publish or not?
I specialise in publishing how-to books and memoir, and plan to publish over ten books this year alone. I look for books that are honest, real, accessible and that have a definite market.

I love memoir, but a memoir needs pace and a plot like fiction, so I look for memoirs that read like a novel. For how-to books, I look for a consistent style, a formulaic approach and lots of subheadings!

You are also a highly successful mentor to other expat writers. What does this entail?
Basically, expat authors and journalists can hire me for as little as an hour and as much as my full "brainwave to bookshelf" programme. We do a combination of email, writing assignments and Skype meetings and I make myself available for 'brain-picking' at all times. The information is all there on my website so there are no surprises.

Please tell us a little about your own writing process.
I write when I am inspired and I write because I have a deadline. If I am simply inspired about something, like a poem or play or a view or a random event then I write that as soon as the mood takes me and put it on my blog.

Deadlines are very motivating! That is why I commit to guest-blogging, or writing articles as a contributor writer for IamExpat. When writing a book, setting a deadline for myself about 9 months hence and making it known prevents too much procrastination. The other thing I do is to start a chapter each week first thing Monday; I do not stop and do anything else until I have done that.

Would you care to share about projects you are working on now?
I am excited to say that I am publishing my first novel in September, and I am starting an expat bookshop online!

To reach Jo, visit her website, follow her on Twitter (@joparfitt) or add her Skype account (summertimejo). Jo's "Find Your Passion" book review can be found here.


Linda A. Janssen


Linda A. Janssen

Writer, author & expat living abroad and sharing the good, the less good and the just plain odd. I chronicle making a new life in NL. Always finding the upside...

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