Jooyoung Kensington

Semicolon Superhero

Well, it’s awfully rad to get the “Yelp” treatment from one of my favorite authors! From Jooyoung Lee, sociologist at the University of Toronto and research fellow with Yale’s Urban Ethnography Project:

It was a joy working with Letta! She helped turn a sprawling manuscript into a leaner and more polished book. As a Hip Hop scholar, it’s often hard to find someone who knows a thing or two about the subject matter. But, Letta combined her lifelong knowledge of Hip Hop and music more generally to make my book less nerdy and more readable. Different chapters were at different stages of writing, giving Letta a chance to show her flexibility as an editor. At times, she’d go through my manuscript like a chainsaw-wielding super hero, shredding through redundancies and unnecessary uses of “the ways in which…” In other moments, she’d make small subtle revisions that made the book read and flow better. Most of all, Letta was a great help during those tough stretches of writing and revision, where nothing seemed to come out right. This is when her expertise really shined brightest. She would give me feedback that kicked me into gear and nudged (and pushed) me toward the finish line. Part writing coach, part muse, Letta Page is a top-notch editor.

TROT! Your Enriched Outline

Art once on display @commonroots
Art once on display @commonroots

To jumpstart any writing project, I can find no better prompt than the Teaching TSP exercise posted by Evan Stewart on TheSocietyPages.org today. In it, Stewart, the co-graduate-editor of TSP, explains the process behind writing a “There’s Research on That!” post for the site, framing it as a classroom exercise.

I wish all my academic clients would approach writing their journal articles this way.

As a sort of “enriched outline,” writing a TROT! post for TSP means:

  1. Identifying your main point or angle on a topic and capturing it succinctly
  2. Writing down the main arguments you need to make to establish that point
  3. Gathering the key sources that will back up those individual arguments
  4. Summing it all up

This is to say, writing a TROT! post gets you about 50% of the way toward a solid paper, forcing you to briefly and intriguingly state your case, support it with the best possible research, and sum up, all in a page or less. Build on that scaffolding, and you’re nearly assured success. Just don’t forget to clean up that bibliography!

Constant Gratification

Image by Nero Monga, Flickr

Forget instant: constant gratification’s where it’s at. I’ve noticed that many of the authors I work with tend to delay their excitement about a project, especially when it’s a book. Why? They usually tell me it’s not “real” until there’s a book in their hands. Ugh.

This means people are choosing to overlook exciting, gratifying, and totally rad moments like: Continue reading Constant Gratification

Reverse Outlining

Photo by Wes Peck via Flickr CCA friend reached out this weekend because she was absolutely mired in a bear of a final paper. She didn’t want me to edit it (and I definitely don’t edit exams or papers earlier than the dissertation and/or journal submissions), but to give some advice on how to handle what had become unwieldy. My suggestion? The reverse outline. Here’s what I wrote:

To reorient yourself to the question, I suggest grabbing a notebook and your paper, and making an outline of what’s actually in the paper. Continue reading Reverse Outlining

Jeri Christianson: A Eulogy

Geraldine Mary ChristiansonáÂ0;Recently, I was honored to spend time with my paternal grandmother as she died and with my father’s sister and brother as they provided care. Relatively speaking, she passed away quickly, after a short kidney illness, and peacefully, having had an incredibly sound health care directive in place. I was surprised to be tasked with giving Jeri Christianson’s eulogy: it was overwhelming to absorb the enormity of standing in for my father, of crystallizing a life, of leading my family through a life course transition in a way that would recognize the process of grief and change is both individual and social. Here’s what I wrote: Continue reading Jeri Christianson: A Eulogy

Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

book collageAnd reading for pleasure. This piece first appeared, in different form, on TheSocietyPages.org‘s Editors’ Desk.

Read Widely

In case it’s hard to tell, that’s an imperative, not a descriptor.

See, many authors ask me for examples of how to incorporate a lot of information into something that’s thorough, academically sound, and engaging. It’s a tough balance, to be sure, but over the years, I’ve collected a number of books (and this is by no means a list of all of them) I can hand off as representations of that ideal. They likely have nothing to do with your area of study, but watching the authors’ deft hands at work (and knowing there are surely unsung editor elves in there, too) can be a truly enjoyable homework assignment. Think of it as “authorial excellence by osmosis.” Absorb and emulate these ten fine examples. Continue reading Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

The Ass Realization

SNL Screencap
SNL Screencap

One of my most popular pieces of writing yet, this first appeared on the SixDegreesUptown.com website.

Bodies are different. We all get that, and we all try very hard to remember that different appearance doesn’t equate to different ability. And yet, I got a very happy, “Ah-hah!” moment lesson that truly impressed that slogan onto my heart and mind: Don’t Judge. You Don’t Know. Everyone Will Surprise You. Do Your Own Workout. Run Your Own Run.

Here’s what happened. It was maybe three or four years ago, and I’d just started running. I think I cheered the first time I ran around Lake Calhoun—about three miles—without stopping to walk. As I should! That’s an accomplishment on its own. I did a 5K and I wasn’t fast, but I felt good at the finish, so I went ahead and signed right up for the Women Run the Twin Cities 10 miler. Whoops! Fear set in almost immediately. Continue reading The Ass Realization

Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Twitter_logoAs a prematurely old person (that is, I’m technically 34, but I make a suspicious number of references to “those damn kids” and know the difference between e.g. and i.e.), I can be wary of social media. Still, I’ve found one way Twitter is really useful for the writers I advise: forced brevity.

Off the top of my head, I have two approaches to using Twitter to guide writing, and I’d be happy to hear others’ ideas. Continue reading Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Name Dropping

shout outsToday, someone forwarded another academic editor’s website to me, pointing out his big-name clients and wondering why I didn’t have a shout-outs section of my own. After thinking about it a bit, I came up with three answers:

  1. Editors, ideally, are secret squirrels. We’re the spies who learn what makes your writing yours and leave those quirks intact. We get in there with a scalpel instead of a hatchet, and we make your ideas shine without doing violence to your piece. In the end, we hope your usual audience won’t even notice we’ve been there. Continue reading Name Dropping

Essays from Inside Prison

Inside-Out letter from JamesThis article first appeared in Contexts magazine’s Winter ’10 issue.

This issue, Contexts is changing the format of our usual student essay. We received four extremely thoughtful—and handwritten!—essays from “Inside” students in response to our student piece in the last issue, and so we’re sharing their insights to give another perspective on this ground-breaking program.

In the fall 2009 issue of Contexts, Tasha Galardi, an Oregon State University student, wrote about her experience as one of the “Outside” students participating in the Inside-Out prison exchange course in Crime, Justice, and Social Policy. The course brought together students from OSU and students who are currently incarcerated for a 10-week, college-level sociology course. Galardi wrote that one of her reasons for taking the course was to challenge her own preconceived notions of prisoners. Learning sociological theories in dialogue and collaboration with the “Inside” students she got to know over the semester transformed Galardi’s ideas about crime (and criminals). Continue reading Essays from Inside Prison