Jo, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have lived abroad since 1987, moving from my home in the UK to Dubai, Oman, Norway, back to England for a while and now to the Netherlands. I have created, maintained a career based on my love of writing throughout this time.I have written 27 books, been a journalist, taught writing, done copywriting, been a speaker and now focus on teaching and helping expats and entrepreneurs to write books and articles based on their expertise and experience.
What services do you offer to expats?
I believe in only working in areas I know well. I know about running a business based on my passion, portable careers and being a writer as well, of course, as living abroad. My services are tailored to this niche. I tend to work with other expats and, as someone who attends expat and international conferences like FIGT and WIN I have done lots of research into expat issues too.
– I run live workshops that teach people how to write books, articles, blogs and life story.
– I offer online courses that teach the same.
– I mentor expats and entrepreneurs to write their books, articles, blogs and life story, get in print and get paid!
– I am a publisher and commission books by and for expats.
What is a typical day in your life like?
There is no typical day as I thrive on variety and routine is something I avoid! Yesterday my Write Your Life Stories program had 9 students, so that was the morning gone. After that I worked on a client manuscript for two hours, reassured a client who was in a funk, kept up with my social media – blog, twitter, linkedin, facebook and then put in some work on the new edition of my article writing program – “Definite Articles”. Then, I had dinner with a new client and attended a talk about business start ups at a networking event. Today, I have my intern, Renata, working with me. I am helping her to develop a freelance journalism portfolio and she does some editing for me. Later, I will have a Skype call with a client in America to discuss her latest chapter, and then talk with my virtual assistant about her achievements this week. And I’ll spend a couple of hours on my email!
What were the main challenges you faced as an expat?
Moving! Every time we moved country I used to give up my support network and my business contacts, and the familiarity I had with the local rules for running a business. Then I had to start again in a new place and build the networks, find the experts I needed, build a reputation again and find some friends. I have learned that I find the people I need in writing circles, in professional networking groups and online. Thankfully, now we have the internet it is easier to take my networks with me.
What particular issues do expat writers typically need your advice with?
What makes a story. Whether their idea is any good. What the best route to publication may be and how to get there. I also have a substantial network and so I am good at sourcing the experts, case studies, editors, designers and reviewers they need. I specialise in empowering and inspiring those who work with me – and making them believe they can do this!
If you had to give advice to our members who were considering writing a book about their life as an expat, what would it be?
I would ask them to consider whether they could think of about 25 incidents, stories or defining moments in their lives and if they could remember much about the scene, the people, the dialogue and the emotion. If they can, then they could string those 25 stories together with a ‘red thread’ that gave them a logical link to each other. I would tell them that life story has to be like fiction and needs to read like a story to people who do not know them. I would also insist that they get feedback early on!
Too many people write 60,000 words – the wrong way – and then come to me. I’d rather look at the first 3,000 words, give them some advice and then get them to write to the end! I would suggest they ensure the book has a point or a purpose. It needs to inspire, support, inform or entertain, or a combination of those. Readers can hear my interview with Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn about just this here.
What are your plans for the future?
Gosh! This is exciting for me as I am now taking my programs online and hiring extra tutors to work with me on my “Write Your Life Story” and “Definite Article” programs. “Release the Book Within” is next (readers can go to www.joparfitt.com/freereport for a free 25 pages report on how to write life story).
But it is as a publisher that there is most change ahead as I am now actively looking for manuscripts and have a whole new PR campaign to plan and conduct. I get very saddened by all the publishers out there who do so little PR for their authors. And I know from experience that mainstream publishers find it hard to target the expat market specifically. I have spent a few years building lists of the media and influencers in the expat target market and so I plan to help my authors to really sell some books!
What do you do to relax?
I love to walk in nature and The Hague has lots of woods. I enjoy bellydancing and yoga, but years of sitting at a desk have given me a bad back and I have been unable to do much this year at all. I love to read, to go to the theatre and to travel. But give me a friend to talk to and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and I am in heaven!