Thursday, July 31, 2014

Global Social Welfare: A New Journal

Its pretty rare that a new journal pops in my discipline (social work) and even rarer to discover a new one related to global and international issues. I was doing a bit of journal surfing for a client, and found just such a new beast: Global Social Welfare.

Judging from the editorial board and other online materials, it actually seems fairly interdisciplinary in focus, drawing from social development, social work, and policy studies.

Its a good thing to check out new journals for opportunities for becoming a reviewer, editorial board member, or as a venue for submission. While they do not have the prestige that older journals have, they also may not get have the same glut of submissions.

Remember to look for new journals from time to time. Simple put "new journal" (in quotes to reduce the number of hits), the year, and the topic/discipline, into a search engine, and see what comes up. Its always nice to also find the new perspectives that comes with a new journal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The interactive spreadsheet: A great collaborative tool

So, I tell you that one tool won't make "the difference" and so what do I do? Talk up another tool!

In Google Drive, one of the document options you have is a spreadsheet. As with other spreadsheets, you can make rows and columns, and use it to keep track of various chronological events and numerical data. Yet, with this spreadsheet, you can invite a bunch of scholars to join together be accountable to each other.

The writing group I work with this summer here at UWT has been working interactively in an accountability spreadsheet. As I noted before, each day participants put in the word counts, and often make comments under that day in question.

Sounds simple enough, but I have been surprised at how useful, even powerful, it has been. The group seems to feed off of each other, with one scholar noting his excitement at being the first one to post on a certain day.

I think this tool has worked for several reasons. First, if forces scholars to be accountable to each other. No hiding when you have to post each day. Second, the idea of having to post a "0" often is enough to make someone do a bit of work. Third, having to post a "0" forces one to think about what is getting in their way. Through the use of comments, I engage the group when they are having successes, and challenges. I make sure to check in with people when they miss a few days, and give "shout outs" for successes. I work with them to help them remove their barriers, which are not coming up "in vivo."

Its been a real eye opener; I am thinking of using this interactive approach with clients who do not know each other. The practice and research implications are integrating.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Challenge: Article in Haiku Form

For this challenge, I want you to consider an article you have been having a hard time conceptualizing. Think of one that you have wanted to write, or have been writing, but have had a hard time figuring out the aims, scope, and perhaps the boundaries of where it starts and stops.

Now, I want you to write this article in the form of an English language haiku. The English language haiku consists of three lines of 5/7/5 syllabus.

Give this exercise a try on for couple of articles. Sometimes thinking of our work in a new, and in this case, highly condensed form helps us get to the essence of what we want to say.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Few Word on Sunday

Even though I try to write everyday, that does not mean that I have to write equally every day. I don't pressure myself, as long as I am writing, writing gets done. Today, a few words on the intro of a book project, to get my head back into it again. Only about 100 words, but now I remember where I was, and can easily reenter it.

If you pressure yourself to have "rock star" days every day, you will soon burn out. With daily writing, there are ebbs and flows; best to sink into them, relax, and trust wisdom of daily creativity.

Even here, there is a place for both longer and shorter posts. I am more likely to not keep this going if I believe I have to bring my "A" game to the table every day.

Now, time to relax, and walk the dog.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Completing Work with No "Need" To Do So

In her excellent blog, Ana Canhoto asks her readers, "How do you motivate yourself to work on something, when you do not have to?" In her post, she note how it is easier to write about a given topic when there is a call for papers, or a where there is a co-author that you need to be held accountable to.

The problem of motivation is one that I have written about frequently in this blog, but often indirectly. Frequently, I write about accountability mechanisms and devices, rituals and routines, personal meaning and values, and how to remove the psychosocial barriers to writing productivity. All of these are part of the process of helping us be productive.

Yet, Ana's question really gets to the core of a different problem; how do you motivate when the stakes are no longer high? You have tenure, you have been promoted to full professor, you are known in your field, you are no longer interested in an area, ect, ect.  Or, as she notes above, you don't have daily micro "pushes" that keep you moving a specific topic or type of project going, although you may still be working on other things. How do you keep that line of research or area going?

While at the end of the day it really might come down to choosing work that is meaningful for us and using all of our tools, on a very practical level, sometimes we have to sit down and strategically come up with some very specific goals.

Example "I will publish three articles on immigration detention over the next two years."

Or, perhaps you start with a more amorphous goal: "I want to maintain or increase my reputation in international social work."

Now, based upon this goal, it is important to operationalize it into smaller, real world, practical goals.

"I will write a book and three articles on international social work within the next two years." Now that you have this goal, which MUST be read at least a few times week to have any meaning, you have to again break this into goals with actions attached, and time frames. These can be outcome goals or process goals. For example:

"I will write for two hours a week on international social work."

"I will work on an article on international social work two times a week."

"I will write and submit an article on international social work by X date."

These smaller goals translate our values into actions that we take on a daily basis, regardless of how we feel, and regardless of the stakes. Then, we build in accountability measures, as needed,  to keep us on track.

Easy breezy right? :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Job Hunting First Impressions

When job hunting, as in many social contexts, first and early impressions count. Too frequently, candidates forget to consider the multiple ways they make first or early impressions.

Of courses, there is the obvious-your cover letter.  Have you had it edited by someone other than yourself? I am not grammar or typo fiend (I am sure you have found more than a few in this blog), but your cover letter is not a time for casual and incorrect writing. You MUST have it proofread by at least one other person. Personally, I would pay an editor to look at it. When you pay someone, the level of obligation changes, and they are trained to catch little errors.

The same  goes for your CV and other materials you will submit for the application.

Now, consider the not so obvious. Say you have a SKYPE video interview. How does the room you will meet in look? Is it professional? Messy? Is your computer in good order? Have you practiced using SKYPE? Have solid internet connections?

Think about phone conversations, emails, ect- are you coming across professionally?

These are the type of details you need to pay attention to. You need to come across as someone who pays attention to details.  That is a hard thing for some of us to get our minds around; we want to "be ourselves" as as graduate students and have perhaps let the more idiosyncratic, alternative aspect of our personality come to the fore.

I am not saying it is time to abandon who you are. If you are a casual, radial person, so be it! We area all allowed our quirks (check out the long curly hair in this dude, and if you know me, my penchant for off color language). Yet, in the job hunting process, we must portray a professional demeanor. When in doubt, low key. This is especially true if your work is a bit outside the box. That is my rule of thumb- the more alternative you are, the more conservative you should be in attending to the "details." Its about balance. If you are conservative by nature, and you are applying to a more quirky department, consider that.

Guys, I am sorry, but that means nice dress shoes and at least a sports coat. Yes, wear a tie!. Women, seek the advice of others on this, but dress sharp.

Spend some of your daily writing time considering all the details you should attend to. Its worth the effort.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Readers Can (and Should!!) Respond

Come on readers, blogs are supposed to be interactive. Lets have some comments!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Choosing the path of meaning

What work do you really want to do? Do you still remember, or have you been chasing status and publications for so long that you have lost of yourself?

True confession: I have lost a bit of myself. For a long time, I was so preoccupied with publishing a certain amount per year, that I think I lost sight of what I really wanted to do. Being productive and pushing myself had an important place in my career, but I realize, it came at a bit of a cost.

It is important to find balance between being productive, taking opportunities, but making sure that we are doing work that is meaningful to us. So, don't take this caution as an excuse to not do your daily writing rituals!

Perhaps, for me, what was even more difficult was the fact that I was interested in areas that were (are) fairly fringe. The lack of acceptance of some of my work perhaps pushed me into some more "conventional" areas that I write in now.

So, now what? What do I want to write about, research? Who do I wish to be, mid-career (pushing 50), tenured and having no more promotions in front of me? No desire to be an administrator again, never again wishing to move?

And why do I write this here, in my blog that is meant to inspire and provide hope to young scholars?

A warning perhaps? Or maybe even more importantly, a bit of honestly; we all struggle at this, this life of writing, this life of thought. Its a privilege, an honor, but at times, frustrating, painful, and filled with complexities.

So, on those days when you feel lost, unclear of what you wish to write about, what you wish to explore, I say to you, you are not alone.

And if faced with a choice, the choice between being true to yourself, to your work, verses a slightly easier path?

No easy answer, but know that others have engaged in that struggle, that lucha; you are not alone. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gil Schoenstein, Gardner, Writer

I try to keep my blog, for the most part, focused on writing, publishing, and the academic life. Yet, I would not feel good about myself if I did not acknowledge my dear friend Gil Schoenstein. Gill was one my best friends when I was in my late teens and early twenties., and remained a dear friend until his death at age 39. He was one of the kindest men I have ever met.

Gil was a master gardener, yes, but mostly, he was a master at living. Gil's favorite expression, which he said often, was "life is good."Mabye, yes, but Gil, you were good. So good.

This week marks ten years since Gil's death. Gil, sweet dear friend, you are still missed.

Since this blog is about writing, here is one of a few articles Gil wrote about indoor gardening. Even if gardening is not your thing, please give it a read. There is a simple elegance to his writing, an understated directness that is admirable.

Tuesday, Will Be Coaching Day

A few readers have asked me to write more about writing/publishing/academic coaching, and what I do. Yet, I don't want to bore those who are not interested. So, Tuesday will be the day that I will post materials about my coaching (although not every Tuesday!!). So, if you are not interested, avoid reading on Tuesdays!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Using Tools and Slogging Along

Oh, if only there was a magic pill that we could take that would make writing easy, that would allow us to become deep and analytic thinkers each and every time that we wrote.  Or, perhaps some tool that puts it all together, that pushes us over some metaphorical "top" and allows us to be as productive as we wish, with of course minimal effort.

But alas, there is no magic tool. I am working with a group of scholars at my university for the summer on writing productivity. We are all using a word count spreadsheet in Google drive; we put in our daily word counts, and make comments about our work.

Frequently people have left comments about how hard a particular part of their writing is, and how they were not able to add a great deal of words on a given day. In their notes, I can almost feel their disappointment when they have a "slow day." Perhaps, they were only able to write 50 words. Sometimes, it is because they were not having a good day. At other times, 50  words actually represented a fantastic day. In fact, any day you write is a good day.

One scholar noted how she was slogging through some writing, and found a way of conceptualizing her work so she could actually finish a paper she had been working on for a long, long time. Even though she did not get much writing done, it was through this slogging that she found a new insight that allowed her to put it all together. Hard days, easy days, fast days, slow days; they all add up.

No tool is the perfect tool, and no day of writing is perfect. Yet, finding ways of slogging through each day, day after day, is what it is all about. That is how a career is built.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Challenge: A departure, but so important

This challenge is a bit different. It does not have to do with writing, but instead pertains to the important, but neglected social relationships we have with our teachers, mentors, and others who have helped us along the way.

Your challenge, today, is to reach out to one person who has helped you and thank them. Pure and simple.

I think I hardly need to explain the value of this challenge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Teaching online

I have a love/hate relationship with teaching online. I love the freedom of being able to teach during the summer and still being able to travel, of not being tied to a schedule that may or may not fit when I wish to write. I like how well constructed questions can help students develop the capacity to utilize writing as a method of inquiry. I love to patiently be able to reflect on what students write, and give students  the space to grow without my being the center of the pedagogical experience.

But, I miss them!! It is hard to feel like I can truly connect to them, especially students that I have not had before. I try, I reach out, but I am a disembodied authority, not the same sometimes goofy and irreverent, at other times deadly serious self. I feel less myself, and so wonder how many of them feel less themselves. I dislike not feeling teachable movements in front of live students,  looking into their eyes and knowing when to push, and went to shut up.

At the end of the day, I miss them. Perhaps the perspective of a middle age fossil resistant to the nature of post modern, post physically situated relationships. If so, so be it. I will do my best to connect, but I hope to always miss the presence of my students when I teach online; I think it speaks to the importance of the university as a humanizing, physical, community centered institution.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Job Hunting Coaching Package

Please skip if you looking for a post on writing tips and are not on the job market! There was one earlier in the day- please scroll down! If you are starting to think about applying for positions, you might want to check this out.

A few people have asked me lately if I help with job hunting, and how much and what type of support do I provide.  Yes, I do, and have a bit of extra time as I am on sabbatical in the fall!

Last year, the vast majority of my clients that were job hunting had offers, and all those who “needed to find job,” found one!. A couple had offers but elected to stay; job hunting often can be used as a means of values clarification. In terms of how much support I provide, frankly, the answer is, “as much as you want.”  Since that is perhaps no helpful, I have been thinking through some ways of conceptualizing a constellation of services.

While I do make individualized suggestions based on an assessment of my clients’needs, I think sometimes it is helpful to have a place to start. Not many academics have worked with coaches before, so a bit of structured guidance helps. And with that in mind, I have created the....

Summer Job Hunting Special Package

This package is designed to help you begin to navigate the academic job hunting process. It includes.

1 hour telephone chat to explore goals
1 hour cv review
1 hour cover letter make over
2 hours of practice telephone interviews (one of these after some suggestions for change based on the first call)
2 hours of video mock interviews
1 hour wrap-up of initial work
4 hours of telephone strategy calls, before, during or after interviews

The rate for this is $1000 dollars, pre-paid for job hunting only, for “starts” beginning now to December 1, 2014.

Of course, if you have something else in mind, or want something more individualized, let me know. I am always willing to chat on the phone for an initial (uncharged) consultation. That goes for coaching of any kind.

Email me if you have any questions at

Why Writing Challenges

From time to time (including two over the last couple of weeks), I provide you with writing challenges. What are the value of such challenges? Do they really make a difference?

Experimenting with different approaches to writing can do several things for you. First, it gets you writing! Writing consistently is the most important thing that anyone who wants to publish can do. Bottom line, writers write (and scholars too!). Second, trying new ways of approaching writing allows you to change your perspective and develop new insights. Three, they will help you to integrate some of the skills I explore in this blog. Each are based on key principles that I use in my coaching practice.

Don't just try the challenges as they come up- there are many of them on in this blog. Go back, try a few, even if you already have. Many can be of value done repeatedly.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Challenge: Once an hour, every hour

A week ago, we did (or hopefully you all did this!) a challenge where I asked you to write for five minutes, ten times a day. Here is similar writing challenge.

This one is for the weekend or another day you can stop what you are doing once an hour. Set your alarm clock or phone to go off once an hour. When your alarm goes off, drop what you are doing and write for five minutes.

Do try to figure this one out, just do it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Link to a great post on getting unstuck

I found a fantastic post by Ana Canhoto, a professor who also blogs about writing (and other topics as well). In it, she spells out some wonderful strategies for moving past being stuck (or feeling stuck, perhaps is more accurate).

Please do check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

To Show and To Tell, by Phillip Lopate

Its certainly not a secret that in a world without children (and of course I am not wishing for such a place) and other middle-aged responsibilities, I would go back to school for an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Since that may remain in the domain of dreams unrequited, I read a good deal about the craft of literary/creative nonfiction.  Not only to I love the genre, but I also find my own personal education in creative nonfiction professionally invaluable. For instance, understanding the nature of personal narratives has help me work on two edited volumes which privileged the narratives and voices of undocumented and detained immigrants.

I frequently find books which focus on craft extremely helpful to my scholarly writing. After all, regardless of our discipline, regardless of which discourse community to who we speak, we all are ultimately trying to tell "true stories."

I want to recommend a book to you that I have been reading the last few days, "To Show and to Tell" by Phillip Lopate. It is a fantastic book, and itself represents the best the genre has to offer. Throughout, the author carefully weaves vivid scenes with profound insights, insight that at times are conflicting, contradictory, puzzling, and mostly, powerfully and tragically human. 

Is that not what the best academic writing seeks to do?   We want to speak about truths; not easy, true or false, paint by the numbers truths, but truths with multiple textures, paradox, and nuances. We frequently chide our students (or at least I do)  for reducing complex human problems to single variable solutions.

Scenes and knowledge, or scenes and insights, considerations, and random, idiosyncratic connections that are all our own; these are our special contributions.

Extend this to social science research; scenes are our data, and the ruminations of the personal essayist are our theoretically, yet personally driven analysis.  Keep this metaphor in mind when next work on findings and implications sections of your articles.

And make sure to check out this book, or some of the other creative nonfiction books I am going to be providing insights from- this is where my reading is taking me.  It is healthy to take a giant step off the narrow path of our own disciplines.

Monday, July 7, 2014

If you were to have one book.....

If you were to have a book on one topic related to writing or faculty life, what would it be? What would be the kind of book that would be meaningful for your career that you have not yet found? Describe it to me, what would it feel like, what would it do?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Write ten times!

Its been a long time since I issued a "challenge" to my readers (shoot, I have been gone for so long, I don't really have many "readers" anymore!!).

Regardless, here is a challenge. Write for five minutes, ten times in a day.  That's it! You will need to start early enough that you can get to ten separate writing sessions. You have to do "something" else after each session, before you restart, for it to be a discrete session.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Writing in Russia?

A bit more than a year ago, I did a series of writing workshops on Russia. Since then, a large portion of my readership (thank you Blogger Stats) are from there. I assume some of the wonderful colleagues that I met are the ones reading my blog! I would love to hear how all of you are doing! Are you using any of the techniques we explored? Which are working? Which are not as helpful?  Let me know, and invite me back!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Meaning and pleasure

I have been re-reading Robert Boice's work. If you have not read his work on faculty development and writing, you really need to. If you are going to read one author on writing productivity, he is the one you should read (yes, I am including myself in the list of those who should be passed over if you are going to only choose one author on the topic!).

In any event, in some of his empirically and theoretical work, Boice notes that it is hard for authors to maintain consistency over the long haul when they continue to say they dislike to write. It is hard to maintain your good writing happens, use accountability systems, and make progress over time if you "hate to write." He stresses the importance of challenging cognitive patterns that lead to not liking to write (or at least telling ourselves that).

I have also explored the cognitive barriers, or belief systems, that lead one to assert that they do not like to write. But what if you just "don't like to write," and this preference cannot be attributed to irrational beliefs. Don't we all have preferences for how we spend out time?

Can we really "learn" to enjoy writing?

I am going to play with this notion in some upcoming posts, anchoring my qualified "Yes, but..." on the relationship between notions of "meaning" and "pleasure."

Contribute to Our Edited Book!!!

Well, I have mentioned the power of narrative several times in this blog, and here is one example. Colleagues of mine and I are working on a new book, Introduction to "Criminal Justice: A Narrative Based Approach." The goal is to us narratives as a tool for creating an evocative text that comes alive through people's stories.

If you have ever been the victim if a crime, ever have committed a crime, or have worked within any part of the criminal justice system, and might be interested in telling your story, please contact me. 

It would be a great opportunity to try your hand at a different kind of writing; not your typical research-based article. All stories will be anonymous.