S. Georgia Nugent, president of Wesleyan University in Illinois, whose career I have tracked for the past 35 years, recently gave me some generous advice (he made the same suggestion on these pages): Create the job you want. I’m just trying to do that.
Don’t get this wrong. I am fortunate that I teach as a full professor in a field (creative writing) that I love. I get thrilled when students take a course because they “need” it and realize, OMG, does not absorb nonfiction! In this job, I had thousands of degrees of freedom to write whatever I wanted, including a long-distance book from Nebraska Press University; A young adult novel and a book about rats published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux; And two guides to the writing series of the University of Chicago Press.
But the 16 years I’ve been teaching is the longest I’ve ever had in my career, let alone a job. I want new challenges, and now I’m ready for the next step. And I’ve figured out something that I think meets a need – a big one – but the location doesn’t seem to exist in most places.
Here’s what I think.
Scholars need a lot of help, now more than ever, and some more than others In a professional career, writing and publishing is the easiest thing to ignore because, really, it is the hardest. Failure to teach the public! Junior faculties are drawn to the service work, and people of color are tapped for each committee and informal unpaid advice is bottled up. Faculty are tucked out, strung out and burned. So the writing stops, and before you know it, the expiration date becomes constant, and like high blood pressure, not writing can be the silent killer of a promising career.
Tenured faculty, sitting on top of a bunch of terrifying and important research, often seek to reach a wider readership beyond their particular field. But they have been trained to write in a way that does not lend itself to reader-friendly prose. And no one ever taught them how to get an agent or what a trade book offer should look like (or don’t finish drafting a nonfiction manuscript before you sell the project).
As George Orwell put it, “Writing a book is a terrible, tiring struggle, like a long battle with some painful illness.” The only way I’ve been able to create a book is to make sure I care enough to get myself through it. I’ve always had an agent on board to help me think about form and content — and in the case of a project that took 10 years to complete, to check each time with a sweet email that said, “I’m just checking in.” It was often enough to get me to work again.
I knew he would sell the book to an editor who was excited about the work and who would wait to get a manuscript. And I knew that even when I thought I was finished, my editors helped me get to where I was trying but could not reach. They point out issues that I don’t see. (Hence they are called blind spots.)
Without a source of advice, support and encouragement, I would rather dig a hole. Authorship is often a lonely, stingy work.
Most academics don’t write books that would pay enough to make it worthwhile to represent an agent, and most university press editors don’t have the time to do serious developmental editing. So, as in the past century, many scholars have had to work on their own. But given the current state of the world — and the pressure on those of us who are in higher education — it seems harder now than ever before.
I’m lucky, and now I want to be in service.
Everything I’ve done in my weird career — scholar book acquisition editor, graduate admissions officer, author of my own six (now about seven) books, professor of creative writing — now working together to understand meaning, although at every juncture I failed to try To find out what to do, I want to find a new challenge. An uninterrupted thread has been my regular contribution Chronicle of Higher Education For the past 25 years and more recently, from Inside the higher Ed. This winding path was mostly around writing, publishing, and higher versions, including a bunch of ultra-long-distance races and horse races thrown for fun and gain. Mostly fun.
Now I’m trying to figure out a way to use the skills I’ve had for decades. For the most part, I have helped people, usually professors or young people, to learn how to write better তে by listening to the best editions of their authentic people on the page, in a book proposal, or in a college admissions essay.
All I want to do is help educators with scholarly work, including junior faculty fighting for the first book, STEM people are never trained to write for unscientific and senior faculty and administrators who are interested in publishing to the general public. I’ve done workshops on campus over the years, but you need a lot of workshops to make a difference. The friends (and some strangers) I have helped with the book proposal can give evidence of my dedication and toughness; Their book has gone on to win contracts and win prizes.
My dream job is to work from home — a university, a foundation, a street corner — and to help mentor writers create books and articles that are important to them and needed for their professional advancement. I see myself as a kind of elephant mother, taking care of and protecting the animals. Or, perhaps, more helpful than Lucy Peanuts With a small sign that says, “There is a book doctor.” After advising on the manuscript, I would kindly ask for 5 cents and remind the educators that they have their own unique unique traits — and that is the path to the author’s success.
The problem is that most university centers for teaching and learning do not focus on the development of faculty writing, although there are exceptions. Some places, such as Yale University scholars as leaders; Scholars, as apprentices, offer short-term courses taught by people brought to Gig, and I’ve heard of programs like Duke University’s Faculty of Rights that do this kind of work. In general, however, people are expected to know how to do the scholarly part of their job. Of course, workshops are offered and writing groups are put together, but based on how many people reach out to me and book fixers to the cottage industry – often PhDs who have not had an academic job, have no publishing experience and have never been able to write. Trade books – I think there is a real need for more sustainable institutional support for faculty writing.
Publishing or destroying is now as real as ever, and scholarly presses can no longer afford to publish books read by members of the author’s family. Universities, instead of continuing to pump up graduate students, may be wise to invest in the faculty they have hired and set them up to be successful, especially at a time when everyone is taxed and burned, but still expect production. Is done.
Of course, I could do this job as a freelancer if I didn’t have a day job. The class rubs me wrong without privileges, just like I did when I was in college. Those who can afford extra help get it in person, and often they are the ones who need it the least. I hope that some universities will give me and other restorative university press editors a meaningful commitment to deep pockets and faculty development সাথে along with writers who have had successful careers but want the intellectual stimulus and stability to work on campus, Ph.Ds who have fallen off the ladder. Or leaps and bounds, and creative writing professors are ready for a career change একটি a small office in a welcoming place.
I want to be able to develop an ongoing writing and editing relationship with members of a university faculty. And I’d be happy to say, after each session of working on a manuscript, “It’ll be 5 cents, please.” And the amount they pay to work alongside them and invest in their success must be.