Annalisa’s Top Book Picks

Annalisa’s Top Book Picks

Annalisa’s Top Book Picks 


If you’re writing, then you absolutely should be reading, and not just reading in your genre. You want to be reading widely.

And I practice what I preach.

For the writers over in the Writing Gym, we set goals and we put strategies in place to reach them.

Part of that should be your reading strategy. Because, of course, in order to be a good writer, you need to be reading.

Did I say that already? I think I did. I must mean it.

First, I wanted to share my top three nonfiction books. 


  • The Go-Giver Influencer by Bob Burg and John David Mann
    • My top pick. This book changed my life. It was exceptional. This is a book that I had to stop reading and think. So I read two pages and went, “Woah. That’s a big idea. I need to think through that.” There was a lot of journaling that happened. This book is about so much more than business, though it is also about business. This book is about how to live a quality life, how to problem solve, so that people can get along. And I think that this book is particularly important right now, right? We’re in a very contentious political situation. I’m not going to get into the details of that, but there are a lot of people who are having difficulty getting along with each other. If everybody read this book, maybe things would be a little bit better. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book.
  • How to Be Rich by J. Paul Getty. 
    • An oldie but a goodie. And let me tell you what I love about this book. First of all, great title. Don’t you want to know how to be rich? And it’s a misnomer. It’s a really good pitch. Although this book is about getting rich, it’s also really more sociological and philosophical. It’s  about the creation of wealth, the obligation that wealth creates, how we create jobs and share that wealth, and how we contribute to our culture patrimony through wealth to share that. Think Rockefeller. It’s a really really interesting book.
  • Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL’s Guide, written by Brandon Webb and John David Mann.
    • Many of you have heard John David Mann on the Writing Gym podcast. He had some great thoughts to share on the writing of this book that he and John went through. Brandon and John put a really great book together. I particularly loved their philosophy on mastering fear. A lot of times, we talk about really mastering fear. And he really nips that myth in the bud through this book. We’ve all been afraid of something in our lives. Sometimes it’s big things. Sometimes fear really gets in the way of our dreams. I don’t want fear to get in the way of your dreams, your publishing dreams. 

Now, my favorite fiction picks.


  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. 
    • One of the things we talk about over in the Writing Gym a whole lot is how you integrate your literary devices to augment your theme and plot points. It’s really, really hard to do. And this book did it really well. Not only is it a good, interesting, character-driven story, but the pacing is amazing. She gives you just enough information for you to always be on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. 
    • You’ve probably seen this book about. It was a New York Times bestseller. Very popular book. Again, the pacing was really beautiful. Just spot-on, how the author was able to give out the information and it did have a surprise ending. No spoilers here, but the way that the book was able to come full circle in it’s theme but also to have a surprise at the end was very masterful. Really, really loved this book.
  • Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington. 


I want to send some shout-outs to some amazing members of the Writing Gym who published as well. I’m really excited for their victories, for their success, for the way that they were able to complete their writing dreams.

My first shout-out goes to Dr. Priya Saklani, who finished her book, The Wounded Healer: The True Story of a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor. She finished this book in 2017, published in 2018. 

This is a really great memoir where she is really honest about some really tough stuff. She and I had some good, tearful moments together as we worked through the contents of this book. This isn’t easy stuff to talk about. It’s not easy stuff to read. But the victory message is here. 

We talked about mastering fear earlier. Here, she’s talking about mastering an experience, moving through something and coming out the other side with positivity. This is a really powerful book from the Writing Gym. 

Next I want to send a big shout-out to our very own Stephanie Scott-Snyder, who wrote this book, not in the Writing Gym, but it was published in 2018. Stephanie works in the field of crime–I won’t tell you more than that. I’ll let her tell her own story. And her novel, When Women Offend: Crime and the Female Perpetrator, is a very compelling nonfiction. Stephanie is certainly an expert in this field who has a lot to share. 

And the last Writing Gym shout-out that I want to give is to Terry Harkin, who wrote The Big Buddha Bicycle Race. We met in New York a few years back and we worked on some of his pages and got his pitch ready. Then Terry got a three-book deal.

He’s doing really great for himself. His publishing company just sent him on a speaking tour, so I was able to meet up with him in Colorado. We had lunch, and we talked about his journey as a writer. I’m super proud of him, super happy for him, really could not be more thrilled for his success and what he’s been able to do with his story and his books.

Please support your fellow writers. Leave a review on any of these books if you’ve read them. 

This is one of the most important things you can do for the authors that you love. Take five minutes on Amazon, or Goodreads, and leave them a glowing review!

Lastly, I want to thank you all for your support of Storytelling for Pantsers. This book has sold so well. Many of you have reached out to me and asked for a signed copy that I’ve sent to you with so much joy in my heart. 

I appreciate you and I look forward to hearing from you all about the books that you love and your plans for the future.

Until next time. Happy reading and writing. 

How Should You Structure Your Writing?

How Should You Structure Your Writing?

How Should You Structure Your Writing?

Recently, I was working with two different writers on their projects. We worked a lot on how to structure their writing, and talked about what the different structures are that you can use–whether to outline or not. 

Structure is important.

We need to have structure to our writing and something to hang our writing hat on. Otherwise, we get lost, even when we’re the writers.

But how do you do structure writing?

This is a problem that many writers have.

Let me tell you something, some people are not outliners but pantsers. What does that mean? It means they write and write and write, and then later they go back and add structure to what it is they’ve written.

Personally, I like to write several drafts, and then return later to impose some kind of structure on the writing.

To some people that is terrifying. These people are outliners. They like to have a structure in place beforehand and plug their writing into place. The two writers I was working with wanted some kind of structure. They came to me with ideas, and we created a structure together so they could do their writing. 

The important lesson is know what your style is.

Are you a person who needs structure? Then by all means, create that structure for yourself and work with that.

Are you a person who likes to write first to get all your ideas out, and then impose structure later on? By all means, I’m giving you permission right now to be that writer.

You don’t have to be something that you’re not. You should enforce your creativity into one box or another, because that will not help your creativity flow naturally. 

There are different kinds of structures out there. It’s fine to be that writer that you are. And if you need help with structure, you can always call on me.

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Ever Wonder How To Get Your Books Into Libraries?

Ever Wonder How To Get Your Books Into Libraries?

Ever Wonder How To Get Your Books Into Libraries?

I recently had an amazing meeting with a head librarian-turned-publisher, Jen. We talked about how to get your books into libraries.

This is a question a lot of self-published writers come to me with, and even traditionally published authors who are working on their own marketing platform.

It’s actually really hard to get your published books into libraries, maybe harder than you might think.

I’m really excited about having someone like Jen, a kind of ally, over here at Date With The Muse. Now we have the inside scoop to get you the skills and all the right information about getting your books into libraries. I had no idea until I spoke with Jen how much work goes into the librarian side. 

If you’d like to talk to me about how to get your books into libraries and how you can work with me to make that happen, you can just drop yourself right into my calendar.

I look forward to speaking with you. 

Writing To Publish or Spinning Your Wheels?

Writing To Publish or Spinning Your Wheels?

Writing To Publish or Spinning Your Wheels?

There are three main mistakes I see writers make when it comes to their writing. They want to publish, to see their name on a book, experience the joy of a book signing, and eventually make real income off their books.

They feel it, they taste it—but then they miss the mark on making the right steps to publication.

If you’re serious about becoming a published author, of living the lifestyle of a successful multi-published author,

Here are the top mistakes to avoid.


Many would-be authors think they can just write a first draft, call it a book, and start collecting checks. While, in this digital age, that is actually possible, that doesn’t mean it’s going to lead writers where they want to go. If you just want your book on Amazon to get some bragging rights, this strategy might work. If you actually want to build a fanbase to become a prominent author with a following & bookstore book signings, your 99 cent Amazon ebook is not going to get you there.


Many authors come to me wanting to be a success. They know they’ve got a story to tell and that know it will appeal.  

Still, they want to do it as cheaply as possible. They seek out cheap editors or no editors at all and wonder why they’re being rejected time and time again.

Writing a book to publication is like anything else out there—you get what you pay for. If you invest nothing or a small amount, you can expect no to little results.

Most writers tell me that publishing a book has been a lifelong goal. If you treat your writing like the serious life goal that it is, if you invest resources into making your dream a reality, then you’ll get big results.


Writers can be independent people, self starters—lone wolves, if you like. That’s all well and good; you need some gumption to write a book and put it out into the world. The downside of this attribute, however, is that these types of writers think they don’t need any help to publish—it’s easy, right? What’s the big deal?            

Of all the mistakes, thinking publishing is a Do-It-Yourself project is the one where I see the most wasted time, disappointment, and writers who give up on their publishing dream altogether.       

Even worse, if these kind of writers are not willing to invest, they grasp for and cling to all the free writing resources they can, like a lifeboat in a rough sea.

Can authors publish on their own? Sure. There’s an exception for every rule, but DIY publishing success is an anomaly.

Let’s look at it this way (because you all know I love a good analogy): In a pinch, I could change my own car oil. (I’m resourceful like that) But if I needed a new transmission or axle? Well, I would take it to a professional. Could I try to do it myself? Sure. Auto parts stores abound in every town in the US & I’m sure there are a plethora of AutoRepair 101 videos over on YouTube.

But I am not an expert mechanic. Let’s say the free YouTube video says to loosen the thingamabobber. I don’t know what a thingamabobber is. So, I go look it up, and the free video tells me the thingamabobber is under the hoozamawhazzit. I don’t know what *that* is, so I go look that up. And on and on and on and on.

I am wasting my time, spinning my wheels. If I’d just gotten the expert help, the job would be done right. A professional knows what to look for at every stage of the process, and what quality end results should look like. An expert knows what the standards are and what pitfalls to avoid.

Writers who make this mistake end up frustrated, and are, in my experience, the writers most likely to quit writing all together and never see their book in print. Now that’s a crying shame.

However, writers who get the process right, who don’t make these mistakes, see accelerated results—they finish faster and publish faster. And because they’ve avoided the frustration and hassle that the mistakes bring, they enter the publishing process with confidence and the knowledge of what publishing industry standards are and how they’ve met them.

What kind of writer do you want to be: one who makes the same mistakes over and over again out of stubborn resistance? Or one who gets that novel published and moves on to write and publish the next one?

If you’re serious about publishing and tired of spinning your wheels, let’s talk about where you are, where you want to go, and how you can get there. You can drop yourself into my calendar for a phone or Skype chat here.


Three Must-Know Guidelines to the Writer’s Life

Three Must-Know Guidelines to the Writer’s Life

Three Must-Know Guidelines to the Writer’s Life

6c42527a-57b7-47ff-85a4-aa55347e5fb21) Writing is an art. Although many writers will pay the bills with technical writing or designing social media posts, they are still artists. Art is about experiences, emotions, forms, and substance. Many people can write a grammatically correct sentence. But the writer will know that sometimes you start a sentence with a conjunction such as but because it sounds better. (See what I did there?)

The writer will spend hours agonizing over one line of dialogue or tearing through a thesaurus not looking for a word, but the right word. (See more about that here.) A true writer seeks the right adjectives to convey the reader’s or character’s feelings, and will make the reader feel exactly what emotions they are trying to share. Through painstaking nit-picking diction, that writer will show, not tell the raw human experience. (Remember, the Rules of Writing are Nothing Like the Rules of Real Life.) Great art takes time and practice to produce and writing is no exception.

2) One of the great writing adages is “write what you know.” We’ve all heard it, however, that doesn’t mean the writer can’t expand the breadth of what you know and care about. Brush up on your history for inspiration. Read the science and technology section of a newspaper to gain ideas of what the future can hold. Go to a place you’ve never been before– or even more daring talk to a stranger. Travel. Learn to dance. Weed plants out of the garden. Want your writing to be a pleasure to read? Create a piece that you loved to write.

3) The only writer you need to be is yourself. Write with your own voice. While it’s fun to try on the voices of authors we love, and different purposes have different modes, if the words on the page are not your own, then your voice is not being heard. Why would you leave your voice out of the important writing conversation? You are an important member of the banquet.

There is no correct way, no perfect way to write, to convey an idea, to express yourself. Some writers don’t use standard punctuation marks, some write in regional vernacular, some never use contractions. How you write is up to you. And how do you find your own writer’s’ voice?

You won’t know until you write.

There are many rules and tips about writing, but it’s crucial to remember some of the basics: writing is art, write what you know but learn what you can, and the only writer you can be is yourself. We’d love to have you join us for one of the upcoming writing groups or classes. I also have a few openings in our Writing Gym and I’d love to talk to you to see if we’re a good fit. What are you writing? I’d love to hear about it here.

All of the best & until next time, happy writing.

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