Getting Published

Whew! I just got my first book, How to become an academic coach: What you need to know, up on Amazon about a week ago, and I’m having such mixed reactions.  I feel proud and I am so thankful that I had a wonderful coauthor, Hillary Hutchinson. Writing can be a lonely process and meeting weekly with Hillary really helped me produce the text I had agreed to write. I like to write nonfiction, so I mostly enjoyed the process. We self-published so we didn’t worry about pleasing editors other than ourselves. The really hard part of getting the book out was all the technical work for formatting and uploading to Amazon’s CreateSpace and for Kindle. With that we got a lot of help with the technical details from Hillary’s VA, Carol Meija.
Hillary and I wrote about what we know, but we certainly acquired content knowledge as we wrote. We authored this book in response to what we saw as a need for more information for people who want to be academic coaches. Anyone can hang out a shingle as an academic coach, but not everyone is great at coaching academics. I specialize in coaching academic writers, with a subspecialty in working with folks with non-neurotypical brains. Hillary specializes in working with academics who want to leave academia or those who want a different academic job, including those transitioning from grad student to faculty member or faculty member to higher level administrator. We are both brain nerds, so we sponsor a weekly summer group for academic coaches to read and discuss articles related to brains, which we feel can help us become better coaches. During the academic year, Kate Duttro facilitates our monthly brain group.
If you are considering writing a book for academics, students, or the general public, we are here to tell you that you can do it. Write every day. Free write if you need to, especially as a way to jumpstart your process. Start with a zero draft. Get your ideas down and fill in the citations later. Write, write, write and, if you are a perfectionist, save your perfectionist talents for later, when you are editing large chunks at a time. Have fun at your writing. On a regular basis, ask yourself what you enjoyed about your writing today or this week. Find a writing group or a writing buddy or a coach to hold you accountable and to cheer you on. Bon Voyage!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are You Ready to Change? Part 1

People often contact me about coaching because they have projects they are having trouble finishing for one reason or another. Usually, but not always, they have goal in mind—finishing a book, dissertation, or graduate degree; getting tenure or a promotion; becoming better organized, reducing household clutter, finding a new job, becoming more effective in the job they have, or being happier. Reaching their goals involves taking action steps and may involve changes in routines, thought habits, lifestyles, careers, and writing or working patterns. What they often don’t know is that change happens in stages, and in one model, action is the fourth of six stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. This month’s newsletter will explain the first two of these stages.

Precontemplators may not even be aware of their need for change; in fact, they may be in denial or actively resisting change. However, they may be feeling hopeless or demoralized about some aspect of their lives. Often they begin to be aware of these feelings due to comments from others like, “Why don’t you stop complaining and do something about it?” “When are you going to finish your [book, dissertation, graduate program] and get on with your life?” “When are you going to take time for me [or for yourself]?”  The precontemplation stage can go on for a very long time.

Contemplators are in the “thinking about it” stage. They are aware of their need for change, but often think they will do it “someday.” Since they are conscious about their particular problems, they may find that references to the issue coming up in movies, TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles, online stories, even music. As they move towards the preparation stage, contemplators are evaluating their lives and the issues they are now aware of feeling stuck about. A move to action while in the contemplation stage may be premature and probably won’t result in a change that sticks.

Does either of these stages sound familiar to you? Is there some area of your life where you feel hopeless or that people comment about to you? Is there an issue that keeps coming up again and again in your environment and hits you at a gut level? In the next newsletter, we will look at the preparation and action stages. However, if you want to read more about the stages of change right now, take a look at Changing for Good by James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo Diclemente.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


July 2008

I am a little more than half way through teaching my annual Writing for Professional Publication class to MSW candidates who finished their theses this summer. In the class we look at a variety of ways to write as a professional: journal articles, books, personal essays and op ed pieces, posters and conference presentations.  Today we were talking about how few social workers publish once they leave grad school. I thought that might be because they are too busy working. One student volunteered to organize the class as an online writing group, so that they could post their goals and progress on a regular basis and workshop their pieces to each other. She felt that would help them be accountable, and she is right.  If you are having trouble staying on task with your project, find a writing buddy, form a writing group (face to face or online), get a coach, take a class, whatever. Being accountable to someone other than yourself on a regular basis can make a lot of difference in how much text you generate. A case in point: I’ve been having a busy month, but a couple days ago, I told a coaching group where I’m a member that I would get this July newsletter out, and here it is.

Writing Resources

I sawThe new writer’s handbook 2007: A practical anthology of best advice for your craft and career edited by Philip Martin (2007, Minneapolis: Scarletta Press) advertised in a catalog recently and thought that it looked interesting. Then I realized that it was sitting on my bookshelf. Sixty-four short chapters by 64 different authors cover a lot of topics for writers of many genres. You can find out how many writers it takes to change a light bulb, learn about the benefits of messiness, explore haiku techniques, become more aware of your writing rhythms, and read up on tips for a well-attended event. This book is one to dip into from time to time rather than one to read from cover to cover at a few sittings.

Quote of the Month

Dennis Palumbo’s Three Cosmic Rules of Writing

1. You Are Enough

2.Work with What You’re Given

3. Writing Begets Writing

—printed in The new writer’s handbook 2007

Leave a comment

Filed under academic coach, academic writing, Write From the Start, writing, writing coach

Writing Practice

August 2008


  • A habit or custom
  • A condition arrived at by experience or exercise
  • The action or process of doing something
  • The business of a professional person
  • Repeated performance or systematic exercise  for the purpose of acquiring proficiency

(Random House Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1999, p. 10350)

Very few people are good writers right from the start. To be a better writer, practice daily—exercise your writing muscles—and develop habits that keep you writing. Notice how you are improving in organization, expression, grammar, whatever, and give yourself credit for your process, not just for your product.

Writing Resources: Using a Writing Journal

Documenting your writing practice can make you more productive and give you a better idea of your writing habits. Get a notebook and each day record the following: date, time you started writing, what you accomplished (briefly), how long it took, where you want to start the next time you write. Some people like to record word count and number of pages also. Some write notes about their tasks (e.g., what they want to research, how they want to reorganize) as well. On days you don’t write, just note that you did nothing, or that you were doing reading/research or whatever related work took the place of your writing time. An observation: I often give clients whom I see in my office a choice of notebooks to use as their writing journals. They often remark that they picked a journal that was visually appealing. It helps to have a writing journal you like looking at and writing in.

Quote of the Month

There’s nothing until there’s something on the page. If it’s just in your head, it’s fluff. Once it’s on the page, it’s real; you have a point of departure.

—Barbara Abercrombie in Courage and Craft

Leave a comment

Filed under academic coach, academic writing, Write From the Start, writing, writing coach

How Do I Know If It’s Good Enough (to send off)?

February 2010

Finishing an academic manuscript is like performing on the balance beam. One needs good choreography (good flow of words and ideas), a lot of practice (several drafts), a good show (say something that makes a difference to your readers), and the ability to finish the routine and get off the beam (take the plunge and send it off). What steps can help us stick our landings (get favorable reviews)? If you have done the following, you are probably ready to send your manuscript out.

  • Have a clear statement of purpose that is followed throughout the piece.
  • Use a topic sentence outline after the fact to check for flow, redundancies, and gaps of ideas.
  • Make every sentence count.
  • Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and consistency.
  • Follow guidelines for authors after you have read them carefully.
  • Proofread out loud, backwards from the end if you can.
  • Ask a non expert for feedback as you approach the end of your work. Ask an expert for feedback once you think you are done.
  • Realize that reviewers feel the need to give feedback—it’s unlikely that they will think your manuscript is perfect and that’s OK.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic coach, academic writing, Write From the Start, writing, writing coach

Putting words on paper

January 2010

Something people often tell me is “I just can’t think of anything to write” or “When I start writing, I get stuck soon because I feel that each sentence has to be perfect.”  Here are some suggestions to counter this problem. Try one or several.

  • Write a messy first draft. Get your ideas down, but initially don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or flow.
  • Write for at least 15-20 minutes every day, even if you don’t feel like it, to develop your writing muscles.
  • Let yourself “write into it,” as one of my clients used to say. Sometimes clarity develops as you play with your ideas, clear out what’s been running around inside your head, and make space for new ideas.
  • Change genres as a way to get unstuck. Try writing today’s work as a poem, screen play, memoir, dialogue, letter to a friend, National Enquirer article, or short story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Getting the Big Picture (topic sentence outlines)

June 2008

Those of you who know me know that “write every day” is practically my mantra. I’m firmly convinced that spending 15-30 minutes or more per day generating new text can move you along towards your writing goal faster than almost anything else can. However, especially at this time of year, I am aware that sometimes you need to set writing aside for a day or several days to organize what you have written. When you feel that those 10 or 20 or 50 pages of text are a jumble in your head and you are not sure what belongs where anymore, it is time to read the draft of your paper or chapter or book from beginning to end.

For nonfiction, a topic sentence outline can help. Keep your headings, and for each paragraph under a heading write bullet-pointed sentences, one per paragraph, that each say what the paragraph is about. Often those sentences are already part of the paragraph, but sometimes they are only implied. (If you are writing fiction, you should refer to your plot outline.) Ask yourself if you like the flow of your text. Can you follow your argument throughout? Is what you have written reader friendly? Are there gaps or places where you should give definitions, explanations or examples (or with fiction, show rather than tell)? Is your work interesting? What should be deleted or moved to somewhere else in the document? When you are comfortable with the big picture again, return to the write every day habit.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic coach, academic writing, Write From the Start, writing, writing coach

Author Loneliness

Author Loneliness (May 2008)

Let’s face it—writing is mostly a solitary activity. Day after day, it’s just you and the computer or you and your pad of paper. Some of us find this alone time peaceful and calming; others get lonely and want more stimulation. Many of us probably fall somewhere in between. For people writing on their dissertations away from their grad school or authors working on a book, the lack of someone to talk to can be wearing, especially if you have cut down on your social time to make time to write.

What can you do about author loneliness? Here are a few suggestions. Join a writing group that meets regularly where you can talk about process and progress, maybe even share your work. Find a few friends or acquaintances and schedule some group writing time in a quiet place. Maybe three or four of you could share a table or two at a local library for a two or three hour block one afternoon a week. You don’t have to talk, just write together (parallel play).Those of you who know me know that I advocate exercise as an adjunct to writing. If you want more social time, choose an exercise that involves others: walking with a friend, pickup basketball, softball, taking your do to a dog park to walk, going to a gym. Get a writing buddy—someone you check in with weekly in person, over the phone or by email about how it’s going. Schedule in social time as part of your week—have dinner or coffee with friends, go to a movie with others, etc.

Writing Resources

One thing that makesThe Writer’s Mentor: A guide to putting passion on paper (2002, York Beach, ME: Conari Press) is the brief reviews of movies related to writers or writing at the end of each chapter. Cathleen Roundtree started with a list of 112 movies and discusses 11 of them in her book. Chapters are organized by Q & A around a main theme for each. For example, in Chapter 9, “Writer’s Block and Procrastination,” she asks “How do I deal with writer’s block or being ‘stuck’? How can I silence my inner critic/censor/editor? I have a tendency to procrastinate. What should I do? How do I deal with my self doubts?” Then, in The Writer’s Mentor at the Movies, she reviews The Muse.

Leave a comment

Filed under academic writing, Write From the Start, writing, writing coach, writing newsletters, writing resources

The Joy of Writing

March 2008                                                .
This Month’s Tip: The Joy of Writing
Recently, I’ve had several people tell me that they enjoy their academic writing when they manage to be “in the zone,” that state where the words flow, they are interested in their topics, and they feel that they are making a contribution. While it’s not possible to feel this way about our writing all the time, it’s worth thinking about how to make our writing less a chore and more a part of who we are. So much academic writing appears to be done for external reasons—to get the degree, to get tenure, to be well regarded in our field—that we can lose sight of our internal reasons for writing—because we want to make a contribution, because we want to educate, because we enjoy our work and want to share it. This month, whether you are working on a dissertation, academic publications or other writing, think about why you are writing, where your passion is, and how your writing can please you.
Writing Resources
A couple good new books crossed my desk just this month. One was Write to the Top! How to Become a Prolific Academic by W. Brad Johnson and Carol Mullen (2007). In 11 chapters, they present their “65 secrets to prolific writing.” Not surprisingly, their second secret, “Write as a way of life,” and their last chapter, “Drink deeply from the cup of life,” support their statement that “Writing must be something you do because it is the core of who you are.” Of course, they advocate a daily or almost daily writing practice instead of binge writing.
In the same post, I received How to Write for a General Audience: A Guide for Academics Who Want to Share Their Knowledge with the World and Have Fun Doing It by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (2007). Have fun? What a strange thought! One of my favorite chapters is “Why we bore: The seven deadly sins of academic writers.” This chapter gives us specific suggestions on how to keep our writing simple: avoid jargon, omit needless words, use active verbs are just a few.
Quote of the Month
Nothing really explains why we write, but it’s a sure thing that we try to put words together because of who each of us is. William Germano, Why We Write


Leave a comment

Filed under academic writing, writing, writing coach, writing newsletters, writing resources