SCWC Content and Social Media Manager Lacey Impellizeri profiles multiple award-winning author Matthew J. Pallamary.
LI: How long have you been writing? What is your experience in the industry? Did you ever expect to become an author and what is your favorite part of being an author?
MJP: I have been writing for about forty years now and started off with technical writing and writing for inspirational magazines before moving on to fiction. Aside from that I was a research and development technician for some of the original word processors that used electric typewriters as printers before anyone ever heard of personal computers. Our most famous client was Gene Rodenberry of Star Trek fame.
After that I became a Customer Engineer for a computer typesetting company for about six years. At the time every newspaper, check printer, financial printer, real estate (MLS) listing service, phone books, publishers etc. used our phototypesetters, so I didn’t quite realize it while it was happening, but I was learning layout, publishing, cover design etc.
I have always had the impulse to write and always had a knack for it. English was my best subject in school. I have vast experience with altered states and after experiencing more than most people, I can honestly say that writing is my favorite altered state.
After numerous disappointments and getting jerked around by a number of agents and publicists, I decided to go the self-publishing route more out of frustration than anything else, so I did the layout and cover design of The Infinity Zone and published it myself. On a lark I entered it into the International Book Awards and was pleasantly surprised to take First Place in the New Age/Spiritual category. All of this is to say that my favorite part of being an author is having complete creative control over everything and every aspect of what I publish.
LI: How were you first introduced to Shamanism?
MJP: I loved Tarzan when I was little and loved the idea of the “natural wild man”, and I have always been fascinated with altered states as a path to expanding consciousness, then when I read the Carlos Castaneda books and became aware of the connection between shamanism and altered states I became fully engaged.
LI: How are your books influenced by your experiences with Shamanism?
MJP: Shamanism underlies absolutely everything I write! My first published novel, titled Land Without Evil, is a historical novel about first contact between the Indians and the Jesuits in South America told from the Indian’s point of view and it was made into an amazing stage show in Austin Texas, complete with acrobats, aerialists, songs, dance, music, video projection, and fifty people in the cast and crew. Most of my nonfiction has underlying shamanic elements and many of my novels and short stories have shamanic themes and sometimes out and out shamanism. Through all of my research I discovered that the classic shaman’s journey to the underworld and subsequent transformation is the roots of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. I wrote a book about that titled Phantastic Fiction: A Shamanic Approach to Story which also took First Place in the International Book Awards in the Writing/Publishing category. Phantastic Fiction is also the name of my writing workshop and the basis of a lecture titled “Transformative Narrative”, which I have given at the SCWC for a number of years now.
LI: Have you ever been on a literary pilgrimage? Where did you go? How did it affect you?
MJP: I have been going into the Peruvian Amazon for close to twenty years now working with visionary plants and many other plants with different healing qualities doing extended shamanic plant diets known as dietas which are grueling ordeals that bring subconscious material to the surface and amplifies it, and of course this is where the best, purest material for our writing comes from. It is the mysterious realm of the muse that we writers all connect to. I don’t write when I am there because I am writing all the time in the “real” world, but I do record my experiences when they are fresh by dictating them into a recorder. This part and my journey into shamanism is explored in depth in my memoir Spirit Matters, which took First Place in the San Diego Book Awards Spiritual Book Category. It starts and ends in the jungle and it is available as a tree book, e-book, and audio book. The award-winning The Infinity Zone was birthed in one of these jungle adventures.
LI: What is the best advice you would give to writers who are preparing to submit their work as an advanced submission?
MJP: They need to work as hard as they can to take their material as far as they can take it in terms of refinement and polishing so that they put their “best foot forward”. Among other things, editing is the process of peeling back the layers of the proverbial onion. Once you get through one layer, things that were below the surface that need attention come to the surface. The cleaner the advance submission, the more it allows the editor to focus on deeper things and if the writing sample stands out, there is the possibility of getting a recommendation from that editor to an agent or a publisher.
LI: What is a common mistake you see when receiving advanced submissions and what is your advice on how to avoid it?
MJP: My personal pet peeve is a manuscript without the pages numbered. If the printout gets dropped and the pages get shuffled, it’s an unnecessary challenge. In the spirit of best foot forward the manuscript should be properly formatted, proofed etc. You might be surprised at how quickly the first sign of typos, sloppy formatting or other “rookie mistakes” will turn off an editor. In the majority of cases they are actually looking for reasons to reject people as they are typically overwhelmed with submissions. Writers need to minimize any possibilities that might bring that perception and do all they can to make their manuscript stand out from the rest.
LI: What is your favorite part of the Southern California Writers’ Conference?
Michael Steven Gregory, aka MSG, and I have been friends for over thirty years now along with Jeannie Jenkins aka J.J., Mark Clements, Barbara Sack, and others who go back to the days of the Writer’s Haven Bookstore where the conference originated out of, and there are many others who have since left the planet that are not mentioned here. My first SCWC was in 1988, which was the third year and I have been part of the family ever since I first walked through the door of the legendary Writers Haven Bookstore. Laura Taylor, Marla Miller, Jennifer (Jenny Redbug) Redmond, and Judy Reeves and I go back just about as far, and Wes Albers and I go back around twenty years. Rick and Linda Ochocki, Melanie Hooks, Laura Perkins all follow, and I know I will get in trouble here because I no doubt have missed some people as it is all one big extended family.
LI: How has the Southern California Writers’ Conference influenced you as an author?
MJP: I’ve been teaching for about thirty years now and my students are and have always been MY teachers, and I never fail to gain some kind of insight from them and even if I never learned anything more, the camaraderie of the SCWC community never fails to fire me up, even in difficult times. As I mentioned above, the conference is family with the most diverse group of people you could ever find anywhere. I’m much more far out than most people can imagine and often find it challenging to relate to and communicate with people, but every time I walk through the door of the SCWC I am happy to be back to a place of acceptance, no judgment, and best of all another homecoming.