Take Note with Amy Snook
To celebrate our journal, For Now, we're spotlighting creatives who take note of—and celebrate—the ordinary things in life. In our fifth installment, we hear from Amy Snook, Founder and CEO of Parea Books and Parea Studios.
Narrative means something to Amy Snook. For as long as she can remember, Snook has been a devoted lover of stories and has cultivated a life that values books, imagination, and expansion. Enter Parea Books, the first reader-centric publishing company, and Parea Studios, a modern creative agency that supports authors and their work.
While Parea is a culmination of Snook's passions, she acknowledges that building a business is no easy feat. "I wake up, and the first thing on my mind is my to-do list," she explained. "I used to be good about living in the present, but the last year or so has taken me far from the present and placed me anxiously in the future. Journaling has changed that."
As another new year unfolds, we're taking a page out of Snook's book (or, in this case, journal!) and writing with intention. In this interview, she discusses the inception of Parea, the rewards of journaling, and her resolutions for 2023.
Tell us a bit about your background. How does your approach to reading or writing differ when you're on the job versus off?
I've always been an avid reader. Reading was my favorite way to relax or escape into a different world. Growing up, I didn't have TV, so I never got into TV or movies like most kids. I also spent a lot of time writing short stories in notebooks when I was younger: I distinctly remember being seven or eight and having a notebook with a polar bear on the cover. I filled the entire thing with stories about my stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys.
I entered the communications world pretty quickly after college, and I started storytelling in a different way—creating narratives around brands, products, founders, and so on. I was always envious of my friends who worked in publishing, though, because I wanted to "get paid to read." They told me that the fastest way to eradicate your love of reading and books is to work in publishing because you have to race through books; you have to look at them in a completely different way, and they become a nuisance more than a pleasure. I didn't believe them. However, a few months into starting Parea, I began to understand what they meant. I'm reading dozens of manuscripts for work that I have to decide whether I want to publish, then once I've committed to a manuscript, I spend months editing with the author.
When I'm not reading manuscripts for Parea, I feel the need to read comparable titles and other relevant books in the "self-expansion" genre, and I sometimes feel guilty for picking up a thriller or a novel. In the past month or two, I've been a lot better about separating reading for work versus reading for pleasure. I've learned that reading fiction makes me a better editor, storyteller, and publisher, even though I'm publishing in the non-fiction world. Plus, you can't be working all of the time. I had to remind myself that my favorite post-work activity is settling into a good book, so why should that change just because my job is now centered around books?!
Parea publishes books in three categories: Learn, Escape, and Feel. How do you apply these principles to your reading and writing habits?
When I was thinking about things that I, as a reader, wished were different about the book discovery experience, I felt that genres were a misleading way of categorizing a book. Like with any consumer product, you're looking for an experience or a feeling from a book—sometimes, I'm in the mood to turn my brain off and get swept away in a story that's far from my own world. Sometimes I'm in the mood to go deep on a certain topic. Other times I want to read a book that tugs at my heart. Some books are great for reading in three-hour chunks on cozy winter days, and others are perfect for the twenty minutes before bed each night. That's why I decided to categorize my books by experience, and it's also very much how I shop for books now.
I have a stack of fifteen to twenty books that I know I want to read, but the book I end up choosing is based completely on the mood I'm in and the experience I want from the book. For example, right now, I'm reading a book called Hothouse. It's about the creation of the beloved publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I chose it because I'm reflecting on this past year and starting a publishing company, and I'm in the mood to learn more about the industry greats and the lessons they learned. Next, I'm going to read Sacred Nature because I've recently moved to a small town, and I'm trying to deepen my understanding of and appreciation for nature since I've always been a city person.
As far as writing goes, I almost always use writing as a tool for feeling—for me, writing is truth. When I find myself overwhelmed, sad, anxious, or frustrated, I start to write and immediately feel like a weight has been lifted.
Let's talk about journaling. How has a journaling habit enhanced your life the most?
Journaling has really improved my life, especially right now. When you're running a business—especially in the early stages, and everything feels like a Herculean task—you never stop thinking about work. I wake up, and my to-do list is the first thing on my mind. I used to be good about living in the present, but the last year or so has taken me far from the present and placed me anxiously in the future. Journaling has changed that. It's the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to bed. It places me directly in the moment, takes my brain off work, and even creates more space for creativity, which ultimately does help me in my work. It gives me a reason to think about more esoteric things and to lift my brain into a happier place. I'm also someone who really appreciates a little bit of structure in my personal life and knowing exactly what I'm going to do when I wake up and before bed gives me a sense of security.
What is your top journaling resolution for 2023, and why does it feel like the right time to pursue it?
I have two resolutions. The first is to maintain a consistent practice, and the second is to get more friends to journal—and even host some creative journaling nights where we write and share what we've written. Both resolutions will be grounding (something I need as I'm juggling a million things and traveling constantly). I also want to make journaling more community-oriented.
What journaling prompt would you give to the Ordinary Habit community?
When was the last time you told someone in your life how much you appreciated them? How did they respond?
If you could read any author's journal, who would it be and why? Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His imagination is unmatched, and his mastery of language makes reading his books an absolute pleasure. I'd love to know how he writes when he's writing just for himself.
Do you journal every day or just when you feel like it? Every day, twice per day!
What's your ideal journaling environment? Ideally, in my bed or on the couch. Somewhere cozy and comfortable!
What's your go-to journaling tip for those just starting? Pick a time you'll journal each day and stick to it. The most important thing is to establish a routine so that it becomes something you truly look forward to and don't want to miss. Once you've got the routine, you can start experimenting with where you journal.