Local author Annis Pratt is on the move. Though the Birmingham resident and former college professor is now retired, she certainly doesn’t appear to be altering her pace. As a community activist, writer, facilitator, and educator, Pratt is well known for her intellectual and philosophical prowess. However, it is for her latest accomplishment as a novelist that Ms. Pratt took some time to discuss the journey toward the achievement of her dream.
“I wanted to be a poet and realized I couldn’t support my family being a writer,” Pratt shared. “So I went off to be a college professor. Every time I changed jobs I kept trying to get back to the writer … Being able to get to be a writer at last is really nice.” And now, with the recent publication of her first novel The Marshlanders, Pratt is beginning to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of her labor.
Though perhaps not a poet by profession, the sweep of Annis Pratt’s life has indeed been poetry in motion. Settling in Birmingham with her husband Henry in 1979, Pratt found herself holding a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with no promising offers of a full-time professorship. Limited by local prospects, professor Pratt landed a job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, resulting in a weekly Michigan commute which lasted twenty years.
Laughingly, the affable Pratt freely admits the commute was “a terrible pain.” Yet as an English professor in Madison she was widely known as a mover in women’s rights and women’s literature. Her writings on mythology and archetypes garnered high praise and she penned two prize-winning non-fiction books in the process. However, by 1990 Pratt had tired of academia. Courageously tossing her Full Professorship to the wind, she decided to become a novelist and return to her two daughters, husband, and home in Birmingham.
The Marshlanders is the narrative result of Pratt’s decision and marks her first foray into fiction. More than ten years in the making, The Marshlanders is the first published volume of The Marshlander Trilogy and a true labor of love. Based on harmonious, self-sustaining communities at odds with their dystopian counterparts, Pratt believes her fiction is an opportunity to share rather than preach about ethical and environmental responsibility. “The animals, birds, rivers … getting the beauty of that is where my soul is. I’m talking about ideal communities.”
And ideal community is something Annis Pratt knows plenty about. Her humble claim that she’s doing “more thinking and discussing than running around” at this point is a touch hard to believe. Despite writing “two hours a day, if not more” in addition to marketing her books, Pratt remains an integral link in the chain of community activism.
Ever the educator, the energetic author continues to teach adult education classes at the Birmingham Unitarian Church and also facilitates the discussions at Baldwin Public Library’s Socrates Cafe. But it’s not all cerebral for Annis Pratt. She also manages to organize donations for the Welcome Inn in Royal Oak and avidly attends local commission meetings to advocate for public transportation.
For now though, Pratt is thrilled about The Marshlanders and is contagiously excited about the second volume in her trilogy titled Fly Out of the Darkness. “Age, wisdom, perspective,” she smiles. And why shouldn’t she? She’s a writer.
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-Post by Megan Shaffer