Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekly Challenge # 7

What does thriving mean to you?

For this challenge I want you to consider the one word in the title of this blog that perhaps I have written about the least: Thrive.

What does it mean to you to thrive as a scholar? Spend a half hour and write your response to this question. Please feel free to post the distillation of your ideas, or all of what you have written, if you wish.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Blogger: Dr. Alissa Ackermen

Today's guest blog post comes to you from one of my favorite people in academia: friend, colleague and frequent co-author Dr. Alissa Ackerman. Alissa is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Alissa has been amazingly productive during her early career, so pay close attention to what she has to say.

Just keep writing. This is my motto. 

With two young children life can often be harried. Balancing the demands of life at home with my work life sometimes feels like a challenge. This is especially so given the life of an academic whose work does not end at the end of the school day. In the "publish or perish" world one must write to survive, but often the anxiety associated with having to write makes it difficult to do so. That is why I say "just keep writing." I always have several manuscripts in progress and a document full of ideas for the future.

Whenever an idea for an article comes to mind I write it down. Wherever my energy takes me in a given hour or day is where I put my energy. I just keep writing. 

To do this, I work in GoogleDocs and I always have my iPad or iPhone with me, but paper and pencil work just fine. Whenever something comes to mind I jump into GoogleDocs and I write it down. Some days a small idea turns into several pages of material for a manuscript, but other days I only get the chance to write a sentence. It may only be a single sentence, but it means I am saying productive. I aim to wrie a page a day, but given the realities of my life, I cut myself a little slack.

Cut yourself some slack, too. If you are reading this it means you care deeply about your writing. So just keep writing. Stop worrying about  the singe article you have to get out to a journal this semester and just start writing. Keep several pieces or ideas going at once and just keep writing. Brainstorm with colleagues and collaborate on papers and just keep writing. This strategy has made and kept me successful in the publish or perish world of academics. The more you write, the more you learn!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Have me come to you!

Spring is upon us, and it is going to be a busy time for me. I am teaching online this term, and so have the flexibility to do some publication workshops at universities in different countries. Over the next few months, I will be presenting at universities in the Philippines, Russia, and Germany, and most likely in Portugal and Thailand.

If you would like me to come to your university to do a workshop, contact me and we can talk about it. Just don't ask me to do it this spring: it is going to be busy enough.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I am, and will always be...

A few days ago, an anonymous poster made a post that I promised I would respond to. If the post was not made anonymously, I would most certainly ask for permission before I responded more publicly and re-posted it here. However, since it was anonymous, and I think I can take the opportunity  to address an important issue, I will take the liberty to do so. Here is the post:

"I am just too stuck in my ways at the moment to attempt even a small change. The idea of forcing myself to write 500+ words a day is just not me. I am not that disciplined. The other problem is that while I understand what you are saying with regards to looking up references etc later and just write, I can't do that, I absolutely hate if I have something down on paper and I know the reference may be somewhere in a big pile of papers in another room, I just have to get it and make sure I have it and re-read it again etc. Seems like some form of OCD."

Read this passage carefully. What you will find are several statements where the author assures us that "this is the way I am," and both implicitly and explicitly says, "and I will never change."  The author conflates behaviors with essential, fundamental aspects of the self. While the author recognizes that he or she is stuck, he or she also states that the idea of forcing him/herself to do something is "just not me." These behaviors are so fundamentally part of  his or her self that her/she could never change, and if he/she did, than somehow it would be a very assault to the self, or a very assault on the individuals essence.

These absolutist or essentialist views are a big part of what is keeping the author stuck! As long as she or he holds tightly to this notion that this is the way she or he is, she will not do things differently. And  the truth is, these are merely behaviors and habits, which can be changed. People often change behaviors that they have engaged in for decades. Of course, it take a great deal of hard work, and in the case above, the author would have to challenge forcefully and continually challenge these essentialist beliefs about who they are. I found a one minute audio on this from Dr. Mitchell Perry. It might feel a bit harsh, but it puts it out there! 

This is an example of what I call a psychosocial barrier to writing. In my coaching practice, I have discovered that there are at least five key domains that I help people with. Writing productivity, journal article writing methods and skills, the rules and norms of the academe, the ins and outs of peer review, and psychosocial barriers. Too often, the psychosocial barriers are what hold people back from performing in the other domains. They KNOW what they need to do, but hold tightly to beliefs and behaviors that get in their way.

Change is hard, and change is often painful. Yet, if you wish to have different results and outcomes, sometimes you have to change your tools. In the case of the scholar/writing, the tool is the self.

For what it is worth, and I hope I did not offend the original poster.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekly Challenge #6

Earlier this week, I encouraged you to take a look at the website of a journal that may not (probably not) have been in your area of interest. Now, find a new journal in your field, or one that you do not know very well. Spend fifteen minutes really getting to know the pages, and see what you can learn about the journal,  and through this process, about your own work and how it may or may not fit. Take some notes about what you have learned.

Responses welcome in the comments section, as always!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Reading a journal's website, continued

There are a few other issues to consider when exploring a journal's website. In addition to the practical issues regarding publishing in the journal, do pay attention to the thoughts you have while exploring a journal. It is amazing how often I have had, and have heard others have, new ideas for articles when we are evaluating a journal. Looking through the range of topics and titles can help us think outside the box, and consider our work in a new way. I think it is a healthy exercise to evaluate new journals at least once a month. Keep track of the thoughts you have for later use.

As far as other technical issues, make certain to pay careful attention to the types of articles and word length for each type. Submitting an article that does not fall within word count guidelines can be the kiss of death. If your article falls outside word count limits, contact the editor to see if they are flexible. Also, how and when he/she responds will help you get a sense of how responsive, or "author friendly" he/she is.

You also want to make sure to really pay attention to the citation convention. Some journals use conventions that are atypical- make sure to look at how papers are to be formatted to save you time and grief.

Also make sure to pay close attention to how to submit your article. Must you make it 100% blind? Do you submit through an online system? Paying close attention to details will help quicken the pace

Do let me know if you have any questions. This is not the first time, and will not be the last, I discuss journals.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading a Journal Website

Learning how to evaluate a journal is an important skill. We have explored the associated issues of impact factor and prestige previously, so I will not be discussing them here. However, as we mentioned, it is important to pay attention to such issues, and how they will impact your career. For now, I want you to think about how to "read" a journal's website, and what information to consider when considering whether or not to publish in a journal.

Lets take a good look at a journal that I have not really explored much before: Journal of Research in Gender Studies. I will spread this discussion over a couple of days.

Open the link, and lets take a look together. On the front page, it talks "about" the journal. This can be called the aims and scope in other journals. Scroll down, it explores the range and scope of disciplines covered. It also presents the 2012 acceptance rate. At 24.76 percent, I would say this is a moderately competitive  journal. Of course, this may or may not have anything to do with the quality of the journal, and the type of experience you will have as an author. That has to do with author friendless  which I have explored before, and will do so at other times. It is a very important concept.

Scroll down farther, and it presents where the journal is indexed. If you take a look at the different tabs, you will see it provides information about the editorial board, information for contributors, and contents. Lets take a look at the contributors contents page. I always take a look at an issue or two, and get a sense if my article "feels" like it would fix. That is important; if you don't get a sense that your work is congruent with what you see, you may not have a great chance of having a paper accepted. Personally, what I like about what I see is that this journal has a very inclusive view of what research is. Some journals that use the word research in their title seem to privileged research informed by logical positivism. Not so here.

Now, spend a few more minutes evaluating the journal. See if you can lean anything else that you would need to know in order to make a decision for yourself. I will pick this discussion back up in a couple of days.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Did you try the word count challenge?

Did you try the challenge this week? If you tried, but found yourself stuck or blocked, what got in the way? What happens when you internalize writing expectation? Do you encounter bits of perfectionism? Do sink under the weight of anxiety?

Do challenges like this push you to write a lot, to do whatever you need to to move forward? If they do, good for you!  Bottle what works, and use it to help you in the future.

If they do not, view your experiences with challenges such as this an opportunity to work on the psychosocial blocks to your  writing and publishing success. Try to see your weaknesses not in a shameful light, but as part of what it means to be human. Doing so will make them easier to work on. When we judge ourselves too severely, we tend to find ways of defending against them. Face them gently, and commit to working on them, one at a time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Politics of Faculty Life, Part 1

Ok, I have to admit something. I did not mean to hit the publish button on yesterday's post, raising the question of what is the nature of "politics" in faculty/university life. I had meant to hit the save button, and keep it as a question for me to consider writing about. Yet, since I did hit publish, and not save, it looks like I am committed to some writing.

So be it.

So, over the next few weeks, I will try to write at least a few posts exploring the nature  of university politics.

So, for today, I will bring up one key point; the importance of understanding the culture of higher education, and your university and department in general.  In particular, what are the roles of those "above" you in the tenure and promotion process? Many junior professor get themselves into problems that feel political and sticky (and lets define the notion of politics later, and stay practical for this post) because they do not understand the nature of university power and decision making.

It is essential to really understand what your chair or director does, as well as what your dean and provost do. How do they evaluate you? What is their role in the tenure and promotion process? Do you have annual evaluations? How do other faculty factor into this?  These are questions that you need to understand, and doing so helps you to consider the nature of your relationships to these people. How do you go about getting this information? Ask your mentors, others you trust in your department, and folks in other units. Study the organizational charts. Read your tenure and promotion guidelines, and understand each person's role in this process.

Of course, developing this understanding is only part of what you need to know when considering the politics of university life- but we have to start somewhere, and I did not give myself my time to consider  where to start.

As you can see, what comes from daily writing is not always brilliant, and perhaps does not always have to be.




Saturday, March 16, 2013

Politics

When we say that academia is political, what do we really mean?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekend Challenge #5

I am posting this weekend challenge early, as to not disadvantage people in much later timezones. Of course, you have to read the blog often to see this challenge :).

For this challenge, we are going to do a simple word count tally.  Write as many words as possible about ANYTHING! Whoever posts in the comment section the largest word count written on THEIR WEEKEND wins. We will define the weekend as Saturday at 5am your time, to Sunday at midnight, your time.

What do you win? A free hour coaching session with me (maybe not such a wonderful prize, but something free is always nice). You may keep the session for yourself, or gift it to someone else.

So, post your word count for the whole weekend by Monday night Pacific Coast time. Honor system.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First Guest Post!: Greg Lamphear, Journalist, Editor, Writer

Passion

Our first guest post comes from Greg Lamphear, journalist, writer, and academic editor.

Check out what he has to say about an important topic-passion.
Putting passion into writing while keeping emotion out seems like a bit of a paradox. But wait! It ain’t!
Writing with emotion is not the same as writing governed by emotion. When I first started writing, and learning about the lives of some of my favorite writers, I began to get this false idea that writers must be tortured animals suffering over each word they write. Sure, many writers are driven to write because of inner demons; however, the majority of paid writers put one word in front of the other because they are driven by passion to put words on a page, not to escape some mental drama.
There are some who can write, but then when they do, they have a negative emotional reaction to the words we put on the page. I understand that very well. Doubt, insecurity, and anxiety are the filters we must overcome. Again, for me anyway, it takes the passion to see the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph to rise above those emotional barriers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest posts!

Starting this week, we are going to have periodic guest posts from scholars, writers, editors, and others who may be able to help you with your writing, publishing and success in the academic life. If you have any ideas about who you would like to hear from, or the type of guest posts I should seek, do let me know!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekend Challenge #4

The challenge for this weekend is meant to help you explore the connection between writing and environment. Spend 15 minutes writing in three different places. The places should not be in the same building, so three rooms in your house does not count. Be creative; lets see who can write in the most "interesting" places. Consider it a challenge (it is, after all, the Weekend Challenge!).

PS..Watch for next weekend's challenge a day early; their will be a prize for the winner!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Please be careful.....

...before you start an edited volume. Make sure such an endeavor is the right thing for you before you start.

As you hopefully have gotten a sense of, it can be both and amazing, and amazingly frustrating experience, all at the same time. Frankly, I would not even consider taking one on until you have published enough articles to meet your goals (unless your discipline demands you write or publish a book for tenure).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Edited volume start up thoughts

You have carefully considered the downsides and have decided to try your hand at an edited volume in spite of my warnings. Congratulations; I hope it leads to professional success and gratification. 
Now, get ready for an exciting and bumpy ride. First do not expect this to be a smooth process. If you do expect this to go smoothly you are going to be in for a very rude awakening. Expect the unexpected. Expect who you thought would be certain to provide you with chapters on time to be just the ones to hand in their chapters late, or never at all. Expect there to be problems, delay and hassles. If you do so, you are well on your way to having the perspective you need to start the process.  This is an long race, not a sprint. Short articles are sprints- this is an endurance event!
First, you need to find a publisher. To do so, you need to write a prospectus and send them to potential publishers. Starting your edited volume without a contract is usually a very, very bad idea, unless you have a huge reputation or your book is a surefire excellent seller (and anticipating this is way beyond my skill-set!). Most of us mortals will want to write a prospectus first and submit to a few publishers.

So what to include. You will need to look at the guidelines for authors of the presses that you wish to query. For the most part, stick to university presses or well respected publishers; you want your book to be viewed positively in the T and P process. In general, you will have to write about the nature of the problem you are exploring, the nature and contents of the book, explore why your book is different than the competition, who the competitors are, and why your book will sell. It is a good idea to think about classes where you book might fit.

Depending on your reputation and publication record, you may wish to have a sample chapter, for example, your introduction, or at least part of it. This will provide publishers with a sense of your writing. If you do not, brag about your skills and accomplishments a bit in the letter and include a writing sample. Most publishers also ask you to submit your CV.

The majority of publishers accept electronic submissions; a few do not. Make sure in your letter to say if you are submitting it to multiple publishers. While submitting to multiple publishers is permissible (unlike with scholarly articles), at some point, hopefully, a publisher may ask you to give them the first shot at the book, or may be willing to contract with you. Here is were things get interesting, and very exciting. 

If you are asked to contract for the book, you then enter into negotiations on a variety of issues. This is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but I will discuss these issues another time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Peer review to open access- an article

Given that the hole nature of peer review is being increasingly contested, I wanted to provide readers with a link to a fascinating read. Don' worry, more on edited books tomorrow!

From Peer Review to Wisdom of the Crowds

Monday, March 4, 2013

Edited Books: Part Three

Now that I have possibly scared you out of taking on an edited book, let me tell you why you might want to consider doing one. In the final post in this series of posts, I will present some thoughts for starting the process, should you consider doing so. For now lets consider some benefits.

First, being the editor of a book is a great way of connecting to other scholars. For our current book  I was able to reach out to some scholars that  truly respect. A couple were not able to commit to writing chapters but I really enjoyed making contact with them and engaging them in dialogue.

Second, being an editor of a book is a great way of collaborating with someone you really want to work with. The only real reason I said yes to working on another edited book was to work with my dear friend and colleague Alyssa Ackerman.  Being able to have a lot of contact with her and sharing our ideas about what we like, and what we wish to have changed, in some chapters has really enriched my life.

Third, being an editor of a book is a great way of developing your reputation in your field. Since the publication of one of my edited books "Transnational Social Work Practice," I  have been invited to speak at international conferences and events, and have made some fantastic connections.

Fourth, it really is an exciting process. in spite of some of the frustrations and problems. I really enjoy getting great chapters from great scholars. Even earlier in the process, I really like crafting the structure of a volume; its a really enjoyable creative process.

Fifth, a good edited volume makes a valuable contribution. Some edited volumes can be powerful contributions to your field.

More to come!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend Challenge #3

Last week you analyzed the structure of an introduction for an article from a different field, and were asked to explore what you found effective and less than effective. For this challenge, do the same thing but with the conclusion section for a different article. Do a five minute free write about what you learned, and how you can use this information for your own work.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Edited Books: Part Two



In my last post, I mentioned two issues that you need to think about carefully before committing to editing a book: market considerations and prestige.

The fact is, the publishing industry is undergoing a lot of changes. Publishers that previously took on books that would not make a profit are less willing to do so. It used to be that university presses were viewed as being an essential part of the mission of universities, and it was often expected that presses would run deficits and be covered through other means. This is not the case anymore, at least not for the majority of presses. Most university presses must be self supporting. This means that books that might not sell well are less likely to be given contracts. The truth is, edited books, unless they clearly can be implemented in introductory classes that are common in many universities, often do not sell well. So, while you might not see sales as a primary motivation for editing a volume, publishers do. You need to carefully think through your market, think through what classes your book could be used in, why libraries should buy it, and why it is essential for your field/disciple.

The second issue you need to consider is prestige. Edited books, depending on your discipline and university, may not be a great "bang for the buck" use of your time if you are on the tenure track. Often, edited books count little more than one article in the minds of some members of T and P committees; I know it sounds crazy, given the amount of work edited books take, but it is true.  Paradoxically, edited books are given much more weight outside of you the campus T and P structure, and can be a great way of getting known. So, know where you are on the T and P clock, and how you are doing with meeting (or exceeding, preferably) campus and disciplinary standards before you commit to an edited book.

So, two posts basically telling you why you should not even consider edited volumes; next we will explore why you may wish to do so.