Friday, September 25, 2009

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 8

It is just so much easier living through other people vicariously. Now that I'm working on publishable pieces alongside the members of the articles-only group, it's obvious that my "Go get 'em" style needs work. Specifically, perspective. It feels weird to corral scholarly research for potential submission. Today as I ponder the next step in Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks I feel interestingly vulnerable.

Besides the first article that I vetted with the group yesterday, I'm going to begin researching a second article to write along with the Spring articles group. That should create a nice balance -- research one while writing another, and then moving them through the pipeline. The goal? Two or three per year. Seriously. Watch this space for details.

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Change your pattern, change your output

One of our faculty authors ran into the classic problem of getting sucked into department busywork/life if she tried to write in her office. From colleagues, to students sitting in the hall waiting for her even if it wasn't her office hour, to mail in the cubbyhole, the office was turning into the last place she could work productively. So she signed up for a carrel in the library, and she began going there when she arrived on campus instead of directly to the department. It's working. She gets a couple of hours of writing done before she ever sets foot in that beehive known as the typical academic department. Then no matter what happens the rest of the day, she has done her writing.

Quote from one of the groups

Today Michael told one of our groups something he learned in a theology class: "Discipline takes desires and turns them into destiny."

I found a couple of other versions online:

Discipline, not desire, equals destiny
Discipline + desire = destiny

I like them all. Know any others?

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 7, Part II

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.

You knew I was going to say this, but it wasn't that bad. I read my assignment from Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks to my articles group this morning, and they liked it. Okay, they had to sort of say that because I'm leading the group and there's a kiss-kiss factor, but it felt like more than that. One of the group members actually had a piece of music by my composer on her iPod! He's sufficiently obscure that it truly pointed to a connection that went beyond just "getting it."

They brought up the same issue that I worried about -- that it might be overly interdisciplinary, but one of the group members suggested that I consider a different journal as well -- one more targeted to the aspect of my paper that focuses on medical history. That's a great idea, and it will make a great fallback strategy if my first-choice journal doesn't bite.

But the relief was that it went over very well... and that I'm still working on it, but now with feedback from two writing partners. Whew. Onward.

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 7, Part I

ANXIETY. There, I said it. The idea of speaking to a scholarly writing partner now about the article I'm going to produce in the next 53 days is making me squirm. I don' wanna do it! As my brother -- who sent me the above -- quoted from one of our favorite comic strips, Pearls Before Swine, "Stay home. Play Wii." And of course that's all I want to do, but instead at 10 a.m. I will face the articles group with (gulp) my assignment from Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks .

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 6

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.


Although I don't want to give away too much of the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks on this blog, I will say that by the beginning of the second "week" (really a five-day period that you can schedule during the work week or run consecutively, as you wish) I'm starting to get a bigger-picture sense of her logic, and this book really does work. It will clear out the cobwebs whether you are on your first article, or your fifth. I love this book and I can envision publishing many articles with its sensible help as a guide.

Today's exercise requires a partner, so I'm going to wait until the articles group meets tomorrow morning and then ask them all for input. It's great that Belcher includes partner exercises, because it forces you (against all instincts, sometimes) to socialize your work before writing too much of it. By getting authors to achieve certain points of clarity early, Belcher gets to the heart of various complaints that journal editors have about articles that are fuzzy or of uncertain value.

One note about discussing work with an academic partner. I feel shy about it! Even though I run groups at Booklab, for some reason I really want to hide my work right now, but Belcher advises the opposite. This feels scary, vulnerable, weird, you name it.

(The image above is from a book I'm reading on writer's groups. I'll report on it later, but it seemed appropriate for this partner-writing exercise.)

More on pre-conference planning

One of Booklab's faculty authors returned from a recent conference with feedback on how his pre-conference preparation went. He viewed the university press booths completely differently based on discussions we had about publisher lists. One of the presses had been courting him, and he was able to see what else they published in his field, look at the actual books, and speak to an editor.

One of the advantages to going to the booth at your professional association's big annual meeting rather than just looking at catalogues is specialization. The press will go out of its way to identify itself to you and your colleagues in terms of your specialty. Also, book are expensive and time-consuming to gather (most libraries won't have all of them), so you'll be able to go through many of them all at once and make more informed decisions about the suitability of a particular publisher for your work. Imagine how much easier it will be to create a targeted prospectus with this kind of understanding.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lindsay Waters of Harvard University Press

This is so useful for academic authors, and I hope to find more of these soon. Don't forget to check out Ken Wissoker of Duke University Press in an earlier post here. Booklab believes (okay, I believe, but I like speaking as Booklab -- so authoritative) that there is no substitute for knowing actual editors at actual presses. More about Lindsay Waters here.

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 5

For background on the 60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing, please click here.


Remember December 3! More about why in a moment.

Today ends the first week of blogging Write Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. Week 1 ends with a focus on your calendar and on potential challenges to writing. It reminds me how odd/amusing/frustrating it is to speak to some faculty about their writing and hear their arguments for their old methods that aren't working. Not all faculty do this -- most are eager to try new things. But occasionally you get someone who fights for what's familiar. As long as that person publishes, then great. But if the books and articles aren't coming, then it's time to explore some new tricks.

One example from the Belcher book is the author who insists s/he needs large blocks of time to write, even though research shows time and again that smaller blocks on a steady schedule are more effective. Belcher tells us, "The first thing I like to ask people who make such claims is: Have you ever tried it any other way? ... It is unscientific to have such firm beliefs without having tested them. According to actual writing tests, there are two problems with this big block of time theory. One, such stretches are elusive, and virtually nonexistent once you become a professor. Two, people who use only big blocks of time to write are less productive and more unhappy than those who write daily" (38). She then goes on to back it up with studies from Boice and others.

So at the end of Week 1, the first five days, thanks to Belcher, I have (1) identified a conference paper that can be turned into a journal article; (2) dug it out of the archives and shaken the dust off of it; (3) retyped it; and (4) set a research and writing schedule for the coming semester with a goal of submitting the completed article 11 weeks from last Thursday, or December 3.

Booklab Loves Sage Publishing Ltd.

Two titles that faculty have found useful in Booklab come from Sage Publishing, Ltd. Both Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks and Designing Research for Publication have been of enormous benefit to authors. Have a look at some of these exciting titles (exciting if you love research, writing and publishing, that is).

Just one note to the publisher if they happen to read this. Spend some moola to sexy up the book covers a bit! For example, we had no idea until we got deeply into Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks that Wendy Belcher is a faculty member at Princeton, or that she was a journal editor for eleven years. This important information should be on the book cover, along with blurbs from opinion makers among faculty, and more specific cover art. This is no slam to your artists (designing books is challenging, and I applaud the professionals who do it well, especially given time constraints and tight budgets), but such strong information can really sell a book title. Credentials count in this business, so let us see them!

Pre-Conference Planning

Why is Booklab getting involved in pre-conference planning? Simple -- our authors make deals there. University presses are well-represented at most major academic conferences, and it can be a great place to make contact with an editor at a top-tier press who might be interested in publishing your field-specific book.

But don't just show up at the conference and expect to get a meeting. Although that can happen, the odds are against you given how busy most publishers are at their booths, how challenging it can be for you to present your concept quickly and effectively, and also what a brief time many university press editors actually spend at the conference; some just fly in and out -- you'll often find other staff actually working the booths for the full days, depending on the press and the importance of the conference.

The best way to approach a conference with a book is to come to one of Booklab's faculty author groups and ask about pre-conference planning. This is always done in a group setting rather than one-on-one, so that your colleagues can benefit from the discussion. You'll learn how to think about university press editors and their lists, how to craft a conference package that will get an editor's attention, and what to say to the editor long before the conference (as much as several months ahead) that will get you the meeting you want.

The image above comes from Yale University Press's web site, and it shows some of the staff at the Ecological Society of America meeting in San Jose, 2007.

The Chicago Manual of Style Does Q&A

I saw this ad in's Daily Media News Feed today. Clever!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book titles

One of Booklab's authors, Andy, found this on Crooked Timber, and it linked back to Your Monkey Called. I googled it, and it's running around the web a bit. So funny.

60 Days of Journal Article Writing -- Day 4

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.


I chose to re-type that conference paper from 11 years ago instead of trying to retrieve the file from an outdated floppy disk. The retyping process is so useful, both for helping me remember the paper's details, and for reminding me of its inherent inter-disciplinarity. The conference panel had been organized by Fr. Alvaro Ribeiro, and it was titled "Words and Music," reflecting his long, expert interest in the English musicologist and music historian Charles Burney (1726-1814).

Wendy Belcher rightly cautions against using interdisciplinary papers for this particular exercise because one risks attempting to publish in a field in which one is not credentialed. She writes, "It is harder than most... think to write for another discipline. Just because you took one film class and wrote a paper for it, despite being in the political science department, does not mean that you know how to write for film scholars." Hmmmm, I'm feeling that. Sure, I was a classical radio host, but that doesn't mean I'm a musical scholar. It means I know how to play CDs and read liner notes. So should I attempt to publish this scholarly paper at all?

In the interest of the blog and the group I will, and here's why: the research isn't pure musicology. I'm focusing on words, and music is just part of it. The piece is also literary history, and medical history. Although I risk being judged by standards outside of my field, I will assume that risk with the understanding that the readers for 18th-Century Studies may take me to task for aesthetics I'm too naieve to incorporate. I can live with that... I really want this paper to see the light of day. So onward.

Day 4 of Week 1 has many notes about obstacles and writing tasks that I won't detail here because you should buy the book! It is just so valuable for writers. I'll keep blogging it, but with the understanding that there's nothing like the real thing (a mere $35 investment in your publishing future).

Image above taken from the website of The Early Music Man.

Dr. Fathali Moghaddam on the Georgetown University Forum

I interview many Georgetown authors for the radio program "Georgetown University Forum," a half-hour talk show that has existed in one form or another since the 1940s (it was even on television for a while). On Friday I spoke to Dr. Fathali Moghaddam who is a fascinating author of books about how and why terrorists think, what is happening to the cultures in which they live, and how globalization actually leads to terrorism. The interview will be available this week and I'll link to it, but meantime check out these books.

One of his most interesting points: he sees women and their changing the role and status globally, particularly in the Islamic world, as key to cultural shifts toward peace.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coffee shop politics

Have you ever been a coffee-shop author? I certainly have, but I've also experienced a phenomenon that Belcher mentions in Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: "Some [authors] tell me that they are itinerant writers. Fixing on one writing spot doesn't work because, after working in a space for a week or two, the place becomes tainted for them.... notice when a place is no longer working for you, and move on to the next. May you live in a town with many coffee shops!" (18)

This odd burnout certainly happened to me. When I lived in Beverly Hills, a tree-lined neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, I used to go to nearby Del Ray and sit at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub to write. But eventually denizens of the pub would plop down at my table for a chat. Authors-to-be figured out that I liked it there, and some showed up unannounced. It was usually flattering, but I became quite nervous when one espionage author used his CIA connections to track me down even when I hadn't told him where I lived, and I used a PO box specifically to elude writer/stalkers! When the morning barista began asking me to do chores like I was staff, I realized the honeymoon was over. After two happy years at St. Elmo's I moved on.

Once in DC in my comfy Georgetown neighborhood, I was thrilled when Saxby's coffee opened just one block away a month after my arrival. For the better part of two years I was there almost daily, sitting in a corner with my latte and trying to be careful about how much time I spent (purchasing a drink or food every hour is a reasonable suggestion). I love the owners of Saxby's, but eventually I got less and less work done as my faculty authors learned where to find me. I love my authors, but writing time gots to be sacred.

A year after Saxby's opened, a nifty, brand-new little Starbucks arrived just down the hill at the corner of 34th and M Street, and I enjoyed it for its corporate anonymity. It was busy enough to feel friendly, but quiet enough (i.e. no faculty authors, no friends, no distractions) to work as a writing space. So imagine my distress when a disaster involving a car and a fire hydrant resulted in a severe water-main break that even made the evening news. The destroyed shop did not re-open, and the space is still empty.

Now I write at home, at the same groovy wooden desk that I bought in grad school from an antiques shop in the Charlottesville hills. I wrote many papers and a fun dissertation at this desk, and now it is my writing space. Other times if I need a distraction I go to Lauinger Library two blocks away. I still love Saxby's and its free wireless, and I sneak in there sometimes if I think the table visitors won't find me! :-)

60 Days of Journal Article Writing -- Day 3

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.


This one's easy. Belcher has a long discussion about where to write, and I already have a good place to write. But if you don't, I recommend strongly that you spend some time with this section, and that you also read Paul Silvia's section in How to Write a Lot where he discusses writing space. Some of the Booklab authors have almost wept with relief when they negotiated a private space in their homes just for their writing (the tiniest thing can do, it doesn't have to be an elaborate library), and also time to write. Partners were generally cooperative if the author in question would also commit a certain amount of non-writing family time as well. Fair to everyone. We'll discuss work/life balance in another post, but one of the happy outcomes of the faculty book groups has been saner writing schedules and more time for family, friends, and life outside of work.

Image of the writing space above from a Poets and Writers feature on writing spaces. It is the space of fiction writer and essayist Debbie Zeitman.

60 Days of Journal Article Writing -- Day 2

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.


One of the challenges of writing a journal article in twelve weeks is choosing something to write about. Belcher recommends revising existing research -- something you've already written for a class or given as a talk that was considered publishable by other scholars. I can understand why, for although it is perfectly reasonable to think that one could take the steps toward publication in twelve measurable weeks, finding and researching a topic can sometimes take longer.

For me the choice was straightforward. Although I considered going back to the dissertation or even rooting around in some interesting graduate school research, I instead remembered a conference paper from eleven years ago (deep breath) at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference at Notre Dame. I lived that paper for several weeks, gleefully digging (ah, research!) in the special collections division of the National Institutes of Health. It combined three strong interests: music (I have worked as a classical radio announcer), late-17th- and early-18th-century studies, and the history of medicine. Researching and giving this paper was a baroque, multi-sensory experience, and I was so grateful for the enthusiastic reaction of scholars in the audience.

Then it went into a folder, it trundled from one house to the next, and it wound up dust-covered and so far under the bed in an archival box that at first I feared I had thrown it out. But no, it was there, the original printed pages with handwritten notes on them, and even a tucked-away and now-obsolete computer disk with the original document on it.

Do you have any older work gathering dust that might be revised for publication? Has it ever occurred to you that it might be perfectly usable now? I'm thrilled at the prospect. How lovely to think that something providing so much interest and pleasure eleven years ago in such an elegant place can live again, and perhaps even find its way into a journal so that other scholars can use it.

I won't yet give away what it is about, but the image on this post provides a hint.

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks