Allison Winn Scotch (C ’95) doesn’t outline.
“I'm what they call a ‘pantser’ because you write by the seat of your pants.”
recently released her seventh novel Between Me and You. The book’s two protagonists, Ben and Tatum, tell the story of their relationship in opposite directions—one moves forward and the other backward. The intricate and detailed narrative structure made the book “absolutely brutal to write.” Allison found that her resilience to continue writing the book in this specific way is something she had to develop over time. “I don’t think [when I was first starting out] I would have conceived of doing it this way. Hopefully with experience, comes the opportunity to push yourself.”
Allison was always an avid reader and notes that many teachers advised her to pursue a career in writing. At Penn, she was a columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, and credits that opportunity for giving her valuable experience and pushing her to write down the line. “[It was] first notion that I could [do] it. It felt really validating. It was not just my high school English teacher, it was someone who read my submission and thought, ‘wow, this young woman has something.’”
Writing, though, didn’t immediately present itself as a career path. Especially since her graduation from Penn coincided with the rise of the internet, becoming a novelist was not a “straight–arrow shot.” She quipped, “it felt so implausible to me that someone could make a living as a writer. Like I may as well have become an astronaut.”
After freelancing for a while, Allison turned to novels. She released her first book, The Department of Lost Things, in 2007. In the time since, she’s published six other books. Her novels are female–driven narratives, often dealing with the complexities of relationships, both familial and romantic. Allison has always found power in surrounding herself with and supporting strong and talented female writers.
“There are so many women who can have success and we should all encourage it.”
Throughout her career, Allison’s advice to to aspiring writers has remained constant: write. “If you don’t try writing something, it does not get written,” Allison noted. “I do feel like a lot of people wait for opportunity to come to them. In the writing world, that is just isn’t how it works, and frankly in the real world, that isn’t usually how it works either.”
One thing that has changed as Allison writes more is her mentality and perspective on her own career.
“I used to be more apologetic about asking for things, but I think once you’re at a certain point in your career, it is okay to know your worth.”