Textbook & Academic Authors Association | Academic Writing Blog
The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) provides professional development resources, events, and networking opportunities for textbook authors and authors of scholarly journal articles and books. Established in 1987 by math author Mike Keedy, TAA is the only national, nonprofit membership association dedicated solely to assisting textbook and academic authors.
This week’s collection of articles from around the web begins with a couple perspectives on how to prepare for successful submission of journal articles. We then explore ways to develop an author platform, how to communicate with a supervisor, and some academic taboos. Finally, we look at why the Academy hasn’t taken control of publishing and a novel approach to self-publishing a journal article.
Whatever you are working on this week, let it flow and give it the chance to be great. As William Faulkner once said, “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” Happy writing!
Publication of academic articles in peer-reviewed journals is a huge step towards the advancement of students’ academic progress. Another benefit is that it helps to move up the career ladder by obtaining necessary skills and competencies. Moreover, working on scientific articles enables you to get expertise in your major or in a specific research field. If you wonder how to provide an effective and successful article for submission in a scholarly journal, get familiar with the following tips.
Dr Deluded writes a lot and submits to journals. In fact, he is so keen to get his work out into the world that he sends his manuscripts off as soon as he is finished with them. But he is consistently bothered and bewildered by the number that are desk rejected. He is convinced that Editors are out to get him. Dr Deluded is making a few key mistakes which are contributing to his continued lack of publication success. Here’s five of the most important.
What is an “author platform”? A year ago I had no idea. The phrase is defined by Jane Friedman — co-founder of “The Hot Sheet,” a newsletter on the publishing industry, and “Electric Speed,” an e-newsletter for writers that I read carefully — as “an ability to sell books because of who you are and who you can reach.”
When we write a letter, we are playing a role. Think about a letter you would write to a friend while you are on holiday vs a letter you would write to a politician, complaining about Australia’s refugee policy. Want to sound happy and affectionate to your friend and angry and persuasive to the politician. You are a different person when you write each letter.
A combination of the increasing casualisation of academia, the increasing accessibility of academic work through open access publishing, and the public engagement agenda, is creating an environment where institutional boundaries are more and more permeable. This is creating a problem. Salaried academics are expecting non-salaried people contributing to scholarly work to be content with the academic currency of favours. However, non-salaried people tend to prefer the real-world currency of money, as it’s much more use when you need to eat and pay bills.
In recent years there has been a growing clamor for the academy to take back control of scholarly publishing. The academy has been poorly served by the large commercial publishers, this argument goes, whose interests are narrowly economic and fail to address the mission of the research community. Often this argument takes on a distinct anti-capitalist flavor, as though the place to start world revolution is not with the industries with real power (energy, telecommunications, defense) but with the tiny business of publishing, which facilitates the communications of a small group of people with one another. It’s possible, though, to sidestep the question of whether Wiley, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and their ilk have performed well or poorly as far as the interests of the academy are concerned and ask a different one: Whatever the merits of Elsevier, ProQuest, EBSCO, et al., what’s stopping academic institutions from taking charge once again?
Allyson Mower (Head of Scholarly Communication and Copyright in the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library) recently wrote an article on the history of the University of Utah, demonstrating that some of the commonly-held assumptions about its origins weren’t exactly correct. She submitted it to several journals that deal with Western US history and Mormon history, but all of them turned her down — interestingly, without telling her what was wrong with her research (beyond one of the editors simply saying “one of my colleagues says you’re wrong”). But what’s more interesting is the way she has decided to disseminate her article: instead of turning it into a blog posting or just putting it in the library’s institutional repository, she created a website where she has posted a summary of the paper and invited readers to request a copy.
Creating a brand for yourself as an author can be one of the most challenging things to accomplish. If you’ve ever attempted to launch a website for yourself as an author or to penetrate social media channels to develop a following for your book, chances are you’d agree success is far from immediate.
The good news is that sites like Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads already have a significant audience and make it easy for you to announce yourself as an author to potential readers everywhere. Here we’ll explore the basic steps necessary to get you started on each.
Many authors find using Facebook pages is a convenient alternative to creating a website for their books or role as an author – at least initially. The primary reason being that many authors are already active on Facebook with personal accounts and managing a Facebook page is as easy as posting to your personal newsfeed. As an added benefit, driving traffic to your Facebook page through invitations to your friends and family is simpler than getting them to visit a website, and the link to your page becomes part of their profile for direct access in the future.
Here’s how to get started:
Log in to your personal Facebook account from a web browser on your PC or Mac. You can’t use the Facebook app on your mobile device to set up a page.
Click the Page link under the Create heading in the menu to the left of your newsfeed or visit the page creation tool directly.
As authors, you can use either category of Facebook page – “Business or Brand” or “Community or Public Figure”. Author is listed under both, so it doesn’t matter where you start.
Provide a page name and add the “Author” category to your new page.
Upload a profile picture. A professional headshot or cover image from your latest book is a good choice for this image.
Upload a cover photo. Pages with cover photos get more views.
Create a username for your page. The username makes it easier for your page to be found in searches. The page also gets a custom URL of fb.me/yourusername and messages can be sent to your page at m.me/yourusername. Review the guidelines for usernames for more details.
Add a short description – one or two sentences – to your page. The description can contain a maximum of 155 characters. An example of a description might be “Eric Schmieder is a textbook author in the writing disciplines of Business and Computer Technologies. This page contains information on his latest work.” This is three characters short of the limit.
Be your first like and follow your page by clicking the Like button under your cover photo.
Invite your Facebook friends and family to do the same with the invitation links on the right side of the page.
Share your new page with others on Facebook and other social media and add it to your email signature for greater exposure.
Post content on the page regularly to gain a following and to give your followers reasons to share your page with others.
For ongoing management of the page, easier posting of content, and to improve responsiveness to comments and messages from visitors, consider downloading the Facebook Pages app to your mobile device.
Amazon Author Central
If any of your published titles are on Amazon, you will want to create and manage your Amazon author page to provide additional information about yourself and your other work to readers exploring your book(s). Your Amazon author page can also be promoted as a direct resource for potential readers to find all of your titles in one place.
Customize your Amazon author page by adding a biography, photos, videos, blogs, and events to your profile.
Customize the Author Page URL to something memorable and easy to promote to others. Your custom URL will be amazon.com/author/yourcustomname.
Connect your author page to your books by using the Books tab at the top of Amazon Author Central to search for your books by author, title, or ISBN.
Once connected, each of the book pages in Amazon’s site will include a link to your author page in a section titled “More about the authors” between the product details and customer reviews. Review each title and the author page for accuracy and periodically update the content to keep readers up to date on your new work.
Goodreads Author Program
Similar to the author page on Amazon, Goodreads Author Program helps connect author profiles to their published titles allowing readers to learn more about the author and find additional works.
To get started with the Goodreads Author Program:
Access the Goodreads Author Program, sign in or create a Goodreads account, and search for your books by title, ISBN, or author name.
From one of the books listed, click your name in the author list to view the default author page tied to the title.
Under the default author profile picture, click the link for “Is this you? Let us know.”
Provide the requested details and submit your application.
Within two days, your page should be assigned to you, a Goodreads Author badge added to your Goodreads profile, and you will have the benefits of a Goodreads author, including the ability to manage your profile, fix your book listings, promote your books, and interact with readers.
Although many avenues for promoting your books and yourself as an author exist, the key benefit to leveraging these three sites as part of your overall marketing plan is the visitor base they already command within the market. By taking the time to add details about yourself to the existing community of members on these three sites, you can quickly develop a following and use the profiles to promote other marketing efforts such as blogs, websites, social media accounts, and author events.
TAA member Micki M. Caskey is a Professor and academic author in the education and middle grades education writing disciplines.
Her most recent publications include Mertens, S. B, & Caskey, M. M. (Eds.) (2018). Literature reviews in support of the middle level education research agenda. [A volume in the series: The handbook of resources in middle level education.] Charlotte, NC: Information Age; Carpenter, J., Lutz, A., Samek, L., Caskey, M. M., Greene, W. L., Kim, Y. M., Casbon, J., & Musser, M. (Eds.) (2017). Imagine a place: Stories from middle grades educators. [A volume in the series: The handbook of resources in middle level education.] Charlotte, NC: Information Age; and Mertens, S. B., Caskey, M. M., & Flowers, N. (Eds.). (2016). The encyclopedia of middle grades education (2nd ed.). [A volume in the series: The handbook of resources in middle level education.] Charlotte, NC: Information Age. In addition to the aforelisted titles, she has published 10 books (8 academic books and 2 textbooks).
What are you currently working on?
I am working on another academic book entitled Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: Intersecting New Needs and New Approaches. I am also working as the co-series editor for two books series: (a) Handbook for Research in Middle Level Education, and (b) Handbook for Resources in Middle Level Education. This includes one book for the Research series (i.e., Equity & Cultural Responsiveness in the Middle Grades) and one book for the resource series (i.e., The Online Classroom: Resources for Effective Middle Level Virtual Education). In addition, I am serving as the guest editor for a special issue for Education Sciences: Middle Grades Education.
Share a recent accomplishment.
As mentioned, I have published three edited books in the past three years: (a) Literature reviews in support of the middle level education research agenda, (b) Imagine a place: Stories from middle grades educators, and (c) The encyclopedia of middle grades education (2nd ed.).
What is your favorite textbook writing tip or strategy? My tip related to academic writing is to Customizing Your Writing Time. I suggest looking for “windows of time” in one’s own academic calendar that are not reserved for teaching, committee meetings, or advising and designate these “windows of time” for writing. For example, I recommend calendaring short windows of time (i.e., 30 minutes) for certain writing tasks (e.g., drafting transition between sections, conducting a reference scan, formatting tasks) as well as scheduling longer writing sessions (i.e., 60 minutes or more) for other types of writing (e.g., articulating a position, building an argument, advancing creative ideas).
What is your best TAA experience so far?
My best experience to date was participating in my first TAA conference–the recent one in Santa Fe. I found the presenters and attendees alike to be personable and intellectually engaging.
TAA member Joan Wink is Professor Emerita at California State University, Stanislaus and is both a textbook and academic author in the ESL, TESOL, curriculum & instruction, education, literacy, pedagogy, language acquisition, and critical pedagogy writing disciplines.
Her most recent publications include The Power of Story (2018) Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World (2011, 4/e) Pearson, Teaching Passionately: What’s Love Got To Do With It? (2004) AllynBacon/Pearson, A Vision of Vygotsky (2002) AllynBacon/Pearson, and scores of academic refereed publications, years of presentations and keynotes, and her blog, WinkWorld, since 2002.
What are you currently working on?
A new book on literacy. The working title is Begin With A Book: How To Get Kids to Love Reading.
Share a recent accomplishment.
I was appointed to the South Dakota Board of Regents, 2017. Last book published in 2018.
What is your favorite textbook writing tip or strategy? Read a lot.
What is your best TAA experience so far?
Santa Fe, NM 2018. This is my first and only TAA experience, but certainly not my last. Loved the group.
The TAA Writing Gym has officially opened its doors for the first time and we are excited to announce that 173 TAA members have committed to a six-week workout regimen in writing accountability.
From July 16 through August 26, TAA Writing Gym participants will be held accountable for their weekly writing goals by logging hours as they work on their individual writing projects. To support and encourage their progress, the gym provides weekly motivational writing classes, writing stations filled with exclusive TAA resources, and a listserv for communication with other gym members.
Weekly writing classes
Each Monday a new writing class will be released to gym members with on-demand access continuing through the six weeks of the program, as follows:
July 16– Susan Robison kicks things off with ways to develop effective writing goals in the first class, “Eye on the Prize: Create Goals That Move You Forward”
July 23– Michael Greer focuses on revisions to meet different expectations in the second class, “Be a Team Player: Write for Your Audience”
July 30– Eric Schmieder offers easy-to-use strategies for improved writing performance in the third class, “Proper Technique: Organize, Document and Present Your Research”
August 6– John Bond demonstrates proofreading techniques for trimming the fat from your manuscript in the fourth class, “Lose the Academese: Be Smart Without Trying to Sound Smart”
August 13– Barbara Price helps participants tone and shape early efforts into a more finished result in the fifth class, “Hone Your Skills: Proof and Revise Your Work”
August 20– Noelle Sterne encourages members to finish their gym time as strong as they started in the final class, “Get Started, Continue Your Draft, and Finish!”
TAA Writing Gym writing stations
To help TAA Writing Gym participants with their personal writing skill development, seven writing stations are equipped with focused resources in the following areas:
Pedagogy and methodology
Editing and revising
Document structure and organization
Copyright & permissions
Accountability built in
Gym members are in this together
Gym members will encourage and support each other throughout the process. The accountability starts with the registration process where gym members provide a brief introduction that allows members to identify others with similar interests or objectives.
Each member will develop a personalized Workout Plan
Described in the first writing class, each participant will then develop a personalized six-week Workout Plan that will be published in the gym. Members are encouraged to create a plan that works for them, work their plan, and encourage others to meet their expressed goals over the six weeks.
Track your time and earn recognition
Each time a member works on their writing project or participates in gym activities they will log their start and end times in the gym. The hours logged will be rewarded with certificates of accomplishment at the end of the six weeks.
Communication is encouraged
All gym members are subscribed to a dedicated TAA Writing Gym listserv where they can share questions, accomplishments, or encouragement with other gym members. Delivered via email, participants will know they are in this together.
The future of the TAA Writing Gym
At this time registration for the TAA Writing Gym is closed and new members are not being accepted for this six weeks, but if you are interested in being part of a future offering, please email Kim Pawlak at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our waiting list.
In the meantime, we encourage you to practice your own writing routine and explore the resources on our blog, Abstract, and throughout the TAA website to support you along the way.
This week’s collection of articles from around the web start with some writing motivation including the question “Have you started writing yet?” and the discussion of writing productivity through a daily writing habit. There is additional advice on how to get your manuscript submitted, proofreading tips, and developing diversity in your reference lists. We close our list with other topics of interest, including what cannot be said in academia, new tools for open access research, quality concerns related to OER, and one college’s efforts to save on textbook costs.
According to Ayn Rand, “Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.” This week I encourage you to use your words, focus your mind, and move forward on your summer writing projects.
For many academics, summer is traditionally associated with open stretches of time and ambitious writing agendas. Many of us put off writing articles and book proposals during the year in anticipation of all the free time we plan to have. As Beth L. Hewett wrote recently in Inside Higher Ed, “’tis the season for publishing,” and we can use these summer months to work more effectively with editors.
The most cited work in the field of ‘academic writing productivity’ is that of Robert Boice from the 1990s. Boice’s research was innovative at the time but boiled down, it amounted to one simple scholarly nugget: whatever type of writer you are and whatever type of writing you do, do it daily. A regular, daily writing practice might be the gold standard but is it realistic? We decided to find out.
In general, writing is high stakes academic work. We are judged on the apparent quality of our writing by examiners, referees and our institutions. So being concerned about how our writing will be seen has a firm and rational basis in the realities of academic life.
In the same way that an author can become blind to the errors in their own work through overfamiliarity, a copy-editor tends to lose that ‘edge’ that comes with seeing a text anew. Therefore, having a separate proofreader is usually the best strategy. However, there are various valid reasons that an editor might find themselves proofreading text they’ve already copy-edited.
Who we cite positions our work in a field. It aligns us with particular epistemologies and ontologies; ways of knowing and of ways of being. It can polarise us from others. In this blog post, Pat Thomson puts it this way: “Who cites who is not a neutral game.”
Academia is a community with conventions, customs, and no-go areas. These vary, to some extent, between disciplines. It seems, though, that some conventions exist across all disciplines. Perhaps the most interesting conventions are those around what cannot be said.
OER is often cited as a viable alternative to expensive textbooks — and it’s still one of the most promising solutions to the problem of expensive educational materials. However, there are still many barriers to widespread adoption. A primary hurdle is that many professors are still skeptical of using free online content because they’re concerned about whether it’s of high quality.
Things began to change at Chemeketa in 2015, when writing professor Steve Richardson questioned if the college itself could publish its own affordable and effective textbooks. Richardson had previously published a writing textbook using a print-on-demand publishing system, and thought the College might do the same with other books.
Does the organization of the textbook relate to pedagogical approaches used to teach with it? I considered this question in relation to chapter organization in a previous post. In this post I will explore another part of the typical textbook chapter: questions.
Flip to the end of a textbook chapter, and you will usually find a list of questions, exercises, or other suggested assignments. Sometimes you will find additional learning activity ideas and resources on the companion website. Do they serve a purpose, or do readers flip past to get to the next assigned reading?
As authors, we are not responsible for curriculum or course design, and we are not in charge of instruction. We don’t know how the text will be used within the course. We simply put our work out there and hope it is helpful. As textbook authors, how can we devise prompts that genuinely add to the value of the chapter and the book as a whole? The way we answer will vary greatly depending on the subject matter of the text, as well as the academic level of the courses that might use the text.
What do we hope readers will do, based on the questions we suggest?
One place to start is by thinking about the steps we hope readers will be able to take. In the previous post about books and pedagogy, I adapted a knowledge framework from the updated version of the classic Bloom’s Taxonomy. This framework points to four types of knowledge: factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive (Anderson, Bloom, Krathwohl, & Airasian, 2000). Thinking about the type(s) of knowledge contained in the chapter can help us craft relevant questions.
Do we hope they readers will understand key facts or principles presented in the chapter? Do we hope they will compare and contrast concepts from this chapter with those presented in earlier book chapters or other content (such as supplementary articles or media posted on the companion website)? Or do we hope they will be able to use those points in some way?
Crafting Useful Questions
Three main types of questions can potentially lead to different ways readers can learn from the chapter.
Review Questions: What did the chapter say about X? Review questions help the reader check their understanding of the chapter. Review questions can be beneficial to students, whether or not they are made part of an assignment. They fit best with factualor procedural Students can use them to prepare for a quiz, or at the end of the term when they study for a final exam.
Reflective Questions: What does X mean to me? When we hope readers will think more deeply about the main ideas of the chapter, reflective questions are appropriate. They can help readers internalize and make sense of new ideas. They work best withconceptualor metacognitive Reflective questions can be used as writing prompts for assignments or journal exercises.
Discussion Questions: How does my understanding of X relate to others’ perceptions? While individuals can study with reviewand reflectivequestions, discussionquestions are intended as stimulus for group conversation. Discussion questions can aim to elicit different perspectives on the chapter, or to encourage group exchanges that lead to new insights or discoveries.
Don’t let poor chapter questions land you a poor review!
One reason I decided to write this post is that as a reviewer, I find that questions authors develop are inadequate. Inevitably, this is an area where I suggest revisions. Here are some of the problems I frequently see:
Review questions that point to content not actually contained in the chapter.
Discussion questions that aren’t worded in a way that encourages interactions.
Reflective questions that are muddy, lacking open-ended encouragement for a deeper dive.
Questions that don’t encourage readers to think critically about the ideas.
Sometimes a chapter aimed at post-graduate students will offer questions that are too basic while a 101-level textbook chapter offers questions that assume prior knowledge or experience an undergraduate shouldn’t be expected to have.
Questions that don’t encourage readers to think about or apply concepts or strategies to professional life or academic studies.
What will work best for your textbook? Share your examples! Let’s create textbooks that help individual readers or students in a class learn.
Anderson, L., Bloom, B. S., Krathwohl, D., & Airasian, P. (2000). Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives(2nd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon, Inc.
Janet Salmons is an independent scholar and writer through Vision2Lead. She is the Methods Guru for SAGE Publications blog community, Methodspace, and the author of six textbooks. Current books are the forthcoming Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn from Stylus, and Doing Qualitative Research Online (2016) from SAGE.
We’ve all seen some excellent videos (and some really awful ones) for instructional purposes. It’s no secret that video is a powerful medium for learning, but as with any technology, it should be used strategically, and done in a way that enhances the learning process.
During his presentation on “Video Creation for Textbook Authors & Instructors” at the Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, Sasha Vodnik, author of video courses with lynda.com (aka LinkedIn Learning), shared his tips on what to include (and what to avoid) in your instructional videos.
Why create videos?
Even if, as authors, we don’t want to believe the claim that “students don’t read”, Vodnik shared some excellent reasons why authors should consider creating videos.
Video is ideal for some students’ learning style;
Video takes advantage of awesome modern technology; and
Video lets authors make material available that there may not have been room for in the print book!
What goes in a video?
To determine what should go into a video, consider what has made the great instructional videos you’ve seen, great. Chances are they did more than tell you something. They showed you something!
To show your viewers what they need to learn, consider including slides and screen captures from your computer. In exceptional situations, students may benefit from your “talking head”, but use this sparingly and when other visual elements aren’t sufficient.
What doesn’t go in a video?
Vodnik started this discussion with two questions: 1) “Have you ever started a video on YouTube where the droning announcer spent a bunch of time up front explaining who they are and what they’re about to do?” and 2) “Who’s quit a video like that and looked for something more to the point?”
Exactly. Some things just don’t belong in the video. Instead, Vodnik advises that you put meta-information (who you are and what you are talking about) in the accompanying text rather than in the video itself. Just dive right in!
Once recording has started be careful to avoid a talking head without an accompanying illustration and anything that’s not useful for illustrating your point.
Prepare for success
As with your writing projects, having a plan before you start will improve the success of the project. Vodnik suggests the following preparation process for your video creation efforts:
Identify a goal
Outline the content
Write a script
If the script is too long (more than 5 minutes), break it up into multiple videos
Create the slide deck and/or other materials you want to show in your video
In this age of electronic submissions and instant gratification, the simple courtesies of yesterday are sometimes lost in the speed of today’s processes. Regardless, most people agree that good manners never go out of style.
As a result, introducing your article with a well-written cover letter to the editor can be the catalyst to a favorable review and acceptance of your submission for publication. These tips can help you write a cover letter that sells your research to the journal editor.
1) Make it personal
The cover letter should address the journal editor directly and convince them that your research is both worthy of review and a good fit for their journal. You want the reader to know that you are interested in being published with them, not simply in being published.
Most journals provide editor contact information on their websites. Where possible, the letter should be addressed to a specific person by name. In all cases, it should identify the paper you are submitting for review and the journal to which it is being submitted. Be sure to include how your manuscript fits within the scope of the journal.
2) Include key details about your manuscript
Identify the complete title and any co-authors on the manuscript. Briefly describe the type of research conducted, the underlying research question(s), and the main finding(s) from the study. A well-written abstract can provide most of these details as a starting point for the concise delivery of information in your cover letter.
When discussing findings, address how those findings are significant, and more specifically, why they are of interest to the journal’s readers.
3) Confirm eligibility for publication
Clearly state that the manuscript has not been published elsewhere; that there are no conflicts of interest or other issues preventing publication; and when working with co-authors, that all authors have approved the submission of the manuscript for consideration by this journal. Include any additional statements of eligibility as required by the journal guidelines.
4) Format the letter professionally
Properly format your letter using a business letter style. Use institutional or personal letterhead with corresponding contact information or include the contact details in your signature block. Include a date line, recipient address information for the journal editor, a greeting, a closing, and a signature block.
5) Express gratitude and demonstrate attention to detail
Thank the editor for their time and consideration of your article for publication. Demonstrate your appreciation for their time (and your professionalism as an author) by ensuring that all required elements are included in the cover letter according to the journal’s author guidelines.
A well-written cover letter will get the attention of an editor, but the manuscript will determine ultimate publication. Be sure that the claims presented in the letter are supported by the article submitted for review.
The Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM. Photo Credit: Susan W. Bontly
The Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s small, focused conference, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico June 15-16, was one of the most useful ones I have attended. The cost was a really great deal considering all the valuable information provided by the presenters. As a first-time attendee and a graduate student, here my reflections on my experience.
1) What were some of the highlights and insights?
The presentations I attended were all on the Academic Track. The first day, I went to two sessions, and then I had three wonderfully inspiring mentoring sessions. I started with Dr. Meggin McIntosh (see more below) and then Dr. Katherine Landau Wright’s presentation, The Journal Article Writing MATE: A tool for beginners, which provided a very helpful tool for evaluating journal articles to use as models for writing and can also be used as a general article assessment or summarizing rubric.
On Saturday, my day was full with 4 sessions plus the roundtable discussions. In A Personal Writing Team for Productivity and Accountability, Drs. Felicia Moore Mensah, Dakota King-White, and Marti Jones demonstrated the power of peer-mentor support and offered many practical tips to make productivity and accountability effective. Tailoring Time for Writing: Creating Opportunities in Your Hectic Academic Life gave straightforward advice from Drs Dannelle. Stevens, Laura Jacobi, Claudia Sánchez, and Micki Caskey on carving out time from a variety of perspectives and contexts. Kathleen P. King’s presentation, Discover How to Deliver What Editors and Publishers Need: Demystifying the Publishing Process, offered sage advice and a detailed checklist for authors to use when preparing journal article or book manuscripts. My last session, Moving from Pesky to Productive: Developing a Healthy, Sustainable Writing Habit, was presented by Drs. Erin McTigue, Tracey Hodges and Sharon Matthews. Their focus on examining habits from the viewpoint of cues, triggers, routines, and rewards was fascinating and very applicable to writing as well as life goals in general. I chose Dannelle Steven’s Exploring Creative Writing Strategies to Boost Your Academic Writing for my roundtable discussion, and along with some constructive tips on how to incorporate creativity into my writing habits, I was able to use that time to flesh out the bones of this blog post.
2) What was the best?
Meeting all the ‘celebrity’ authors who have provided advice through blog posts and webinars. It was great to put a face to a name or voice. I was a little star-struck at first until I saw how approachable they all were, and willing to answer questions.
3) What could be improved?
The networking event was well attended but as a new attendee, it was rather intimidating. I would recommend some type of ice breaker activity to help those who do not know anyone feel more welcome.
4) What surprised me most?
The approachability of the authors and enthusiasm of all the attendees. Everyone was willing to share their knowledge and a little about their writing process.
5) What was the most useful take-away?
In Meggin McIntosh’s Hunks, Chunks, & Bites: Plan Writing Projects So You Actually Complete Them! presentation, she recommended using index cards to break down a project into manageable “bites”. She even provided cards for us to use for the exercise and extras to take home. I have already adapted this idea to breaking down the first chapter of my dissertation into realistic pieces that I can productively work on in short time frames. Thanks, Meggin!
6) What advice or information has stuck with me two weeks after the conference?
The keynote address by Kent Anderson. Much of what he spoke about was not unknown (maybe not well publicized but not new), but he put things into a different perspective that has continued to resonate with me.
7) What do I wish there was more or less of?
More opportunities for graduate students to network, possibly our own networking session at lunch or a contact board set up to make connections. I can’t really think of anything less: the conference was the right length for the content; there was ample opportunities to spend time with people you met; the location was great; and the organization of the conference was exceptional.
8) What would I have done differently?
Make contact with other TAA members via the Community area on the TAA website prior to coming to the conference to make my networking working efforts a little more productive.
9) What would I recommend to new attendees to make the most of the conference?
Take advantage of the mentorship opportunities but do your homework first. Read their bios, visit their websites, watch their webinars, and browse their blog posts and books/journal articles. Come with a clear idea of what advice you want, based on their expertise.
10) How was the venue?
Santa Fe is a delightful get-away and, from my perspective, the La Fonda Hotel provided an excellent conference location. The rooms were well-set up, the service was outstanding, and the food provided was high quality. I hope all the attendees had a chance to play tourist and visit some of the historical and artistic sites. I was able to squeeze in a quick visit to the Loretto Chapel, which was a true delight.
Susan W. Bontly is a doctoral student at New Mexico State University, studying Learning Design and Technology at the College of Education and she is piloting the multiple article dissertation format in hopes of establishing it as an alternativeoption for humanities students. Susan’s first journal article has been slated for publication and she welcomes all queries from those interested in co-authoring. Her research interests include technology, online learning, graduate support efforts, and learning communities of all types.