The Must-read Writing Help Book for Academics

What’re YOU reading?

I read a lot. Last year, I read about a 120 books. I know this because I get most of my books from the library and can view my account history. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging, I’m a slacker; I didn’t read every single word. One of my poetry colleagues says he reads 700 books a year.  He works for a press and reads a lot of manuscripts.

Some books, I scan the chapters and pick out the interesting parts, some books, I get twenty pages in and decide to bail. And some books, I read every word, and, hopefully, by the end, I feel that familiar ping of sadness that a reader gets when the story is over but wishes it would keep going.

For fun, I read mostly poetry and some novels and short stories. Last year, I read Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. It floored me. So good. I love good quality writing. I usually read the finalists for the major poetry awards, the Pulitzers, the National Book Award, Oregon Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Nobel winners. I will read books that are not celebrated too.  If a poet friend publishes a book, I’ll read it.

A friend was asked what his writing schedule is. He responded with, “I don’t have a writing schedule, I have a reading schedule.” Good advice  for poets and writers, and for academics for that matter: Take time to read. I wish I had more time to read.  I’m like Burgess Meredith in Time Enough at Last (season 1, episode 8 of the Twilight Zone).

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What does this have to do with CLA Research?

For my own interests in poetry, I have been reading about how poetry can be used as a research method, how poetry can be used to manage research, how poetry writing workshops can be used to conduct research on communities, poetry as anthropology research. I’ve learned that there is such a thing as research poetry, and I’ve come to realize how much research I do when I write poetry.

I read these sources because I am working on a project forthcoming from Springer Publishing on Coastal Heritage and Cultural Resilience.  It’s part of Springer’s ethnobiology series, and I am pleased that they have allowed me and the collection editors to include poetry and art along with scholarly essays on sociology, history, anthropology, economics, and more. I’ll be sure to blog about that book when it comes out.  The majority of the chapters are contributed by OSU faculty in the College of Liberal Arts.

A colleague tipped me to read A Scrutiny of the Abstract, II by Kenneth K. Landes.  It’s a fun, short essay on the purpose of the abstract, and it gives tips on how to write and what to include in an abstract.

What does this have to do with Research Development?

I have read many grant writing books.  And to you reading this, be ready, post a comment, I am always looking for grant writing book recommendations.

For a workbook on grant writing, I recommend the Mary Licklider’s Grant Seeking in Higher Education: Strategies and Tools for College Faculty. Its step-by-step approach to building a research program can get anybody started. It is often used in faculty development and grant writing workshops.

Joshua Schimel’s Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded was recommended to me by a research development colleague from New Hampshire. It is compact, which I think will appeal to readers, and the end-of-chapter exercises were useful and practical, and reaffirmed my own processes when I work with researchers developing proposals.  It helps readers understand the importance of story and structure.

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schedule your writing time and protect it

from other commitments and demands

I also read, How to Write a Lot by Paul Silva. What a fun read! It takes a lighthearted approach to academic writing demands.  “Writing is hard, ” Silva writes. It’s a skill, he goes on, “not a genetic gift.” Silva gives practical advice to keep up with the demands of writing. The bottom lines are: schedule your writing time, and protect it. Writing regularly will help you generate content.

Here comes the part of the blog post that will really set your clock!

To those readers who have made this far, welcome!  The purpose of this blog post is to let readers know about the must-read writing help book by Marc J. Kuchner’s Marketing for Scientists. This book will help you become a better writer and get the publications, book deals, and grant funds you need. This book helps you sell your skills to convince investors to buy what you’re selling. Kuchner is an astrophysicist but he understands the business aspect of writing and academia.  With chapters on marketing, building relationships, branding, and more, Kuchner helps readers identify who their audiences are and how we, as writers, have to deliver to our audiences the products they want. On their terms, not ours.

Chapters on proposals, conferences, social media, and one titled “Starting a Movement” based on your efforts, will help you learn how to throw your whole being into your writing.

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What’s next on my nightstand?

More time for reading, hopefully! I encourage research developers and grant writers to read, read, read!  Familiarize yourself with the products of the faculty and the clients you serve. Read their papers, look at their websites, attend their seminars, conferences, and art shows. Understanding where clients and faculty are in their own professional development will help research developers understand their faculty’s messaging and communication needs. And when a funding opportunity arises, people will be syncing their clocks with yours.

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