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More Kindness from Authors

Well, it’s starting to look like I need some sort of special section for the incredible kindnesses extended to me by the brilliant people who let me tinker with their words! My addition today has me all kinds of verklempt–it’s from the acknowledgements of the new and transformative book Life Under Pressure: The Social Roots of Youth Suicide and What To Do about Themby Anna S. Mueller and Seth Abrutyn:

It is hard to figure out how to appropriately acknowledge and thank the marvelous Letta Page, who painstakingly poured over every chapter of this book providing us with important edits and insightful comments and helping us hone honestly everything about the book. It would be easier to figure out how to acknowledge Letta if that was all she did. But she also became our most trusted confidant and the person with whom we were most vulnerable (with our ideas). She made writing this book possible and even joyful. Letta, we aren’t sure we would have gotten here without you. Thank you for all you gave us, the words and beyond.

And… again!

Just another truly awesome acknowledgment from a brilliant author, NBD. Okay, to me? BD. Very BD. This one’s from Tina Fetner’s Sex in Canada: The Who, Why, When, and How of Getting Down Up North:

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the very talented wordsmith and my good friend Letta Page. Her enthusiasm for this project was contagious, and I appreciate the energy that her upbeat attitude gave me when I needed it most. Letta refuses to let me calcify into a stodgy academic, even though that would be as comfortable as curling up with a good book. Instead, she lent her wit and humour to the project, as well as her substantial talent as an editor, helping me find my voice for this work. If you enjoy reading it as much as I hope you will, you can thank Letta. I certainly do.

What a joy it was to work on this project and to help the inimitable Tina Fetner bring her own signature wit and wisdom to bear on the topic of, well, ways to warm the flannel sheets!


Recently, I was thrilled to receive a copy of the brand-spanking-new, brilliant and beautiful book The Peer Effect from author Syed Ali. And when I turned to the acknowledgments, I turned to mush. The authors have written:

Lastly, we want to thank our wordsmith, Letta Page. While we were pretty sure that the book was good, once it got into her hands it got soooo much better. It helps that Letta, a degree holder in classics, knows more sociology than most sociologists. In fact, she has forgotten more sociology than most sociologists know. She pointed out flaws, she stressed good points, she suggested additions and subtractions, she said go read these things right now, and she gave the writing a good spit-shine polish. We can’t thank her enough.

And in turn, I can’t thank them enough. What a dang delight!

More Reading Fodder

At long last, I’ve updated my “recommended readings” list for those who want to learn more about writing through reading. The occasion was grand—a conversation with scholars at the University of British Columbia about lively academic writing—and I’m pleased to share the list. As always, my choices are arbitrary and capricious, just a smattering of good reads for those who enjoy nonfiction. I haven’t, however, taken the time to write any descriptions, so I fear you’ll have to read them and find out!

Bonus: A few handy references for the writerly minded out there! For the book list, skip down a few lines.

Reference Books to Keep Close at Hand:

  • Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus
  • Choose the Right Word, S. I. Hayakawa
  • Writing for Social Scientists, Howard S. Becker
  • On Revision, William Germano
  • Stylish Academic Writing, Helen Sword

Books for Readers and Writers:

  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
  • Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, Susan J. Douglas
  • The Library Book, Susan Orlean
  • The Monk of Mokha, Dave Eggers
  • Angels and Ages: Lincoln, Darwin, and the Birth of the Modern Age, Adam Gopnik
  • Thunderstruck, Erik Larson
  • The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
  • Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
  • The City of Falling Angels, John Berendt
  • How to Be Danish: A Journey to the Heart of Denmark, Patrick Kingsley
  • Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Greatest Migration, Isabelle Wilkerson
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed To Be, Marissa R. Moss
  • The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—And How It Changes Science, Cities, and the Modern World, Steven Johnson
  • A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, Michael Pollan
  • Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life, Lulu Miller
  • Humankind: A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann
  • Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire, Colleen Morton Busch
  • Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, Martha A. Sandweiss
  • Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble, Stefan Fatsis
  • Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans, Dan Baum
  • Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, Gilbert King
  • Wait Till Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
  • Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him, David Henry and Joe Henry


Stacks on Stacks (Updated Feb. 2024)

I’m often asked which books I’ve edited, and, truly, I’ve been lucky to get my mitts on so many talented authors’ words. Here’s a little sample of the books I’ve worked on that are out now:

Sex in Canada, Tina Fetner | The Peer Effect, Syed Ali and Margaret S. Chin | The Minneapolis Reckoning, Michelle S. Phelps | The Policing Machine, Tony Cheng | The Danger Imperative, Michael Sierra-Arévalo | Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics, Neil Gong | Indefinite: Doing Time in Jail, Michael L. Walker | Punishing Places, Jessica T. Simes | Predict and Surveil, Sarah L. Brayne | Uninsured in Chicago, Rob Vargas | Credible Threat, Sarah Sobieraj | Producing Politics, Daniel Laurison | Queer Carnival, Amy L. Stone | Orange Collar Labor, Michael Gibson-Light | Retail Inequality, Kenneth H. Kolb | Making Moral Citizens, Jack Delehanty | Policing Welfare, Spencer Headworth | Hedged Out, Megan Tobias Neely | Banished Men, Abigail L. Andrews | Now Hiring, Nicole C. Jones-Young | Mining the Heartland, Erik Kojola | Revolution Squared, Atef Said | In This Place Called Prison, Rachel Ellis | A Few Good Gays, Cati Connell | Walking Mannequins, Joya Misra and Kyla Walters | Chasing the American Dream in China, Leslie K. Wang | The Dating Divide, Celeste Curington, Jennifer Lundquist, and Ken-Hou Lin | The People’s Hotel, Katherine Sobering | Constructing Community, Jeremy Levine | Figures of the Future, Michael Rodriguez-Muniz | GoFailMe, Erik Schneiderhan and Martin Lukk | Living in a Nuclear World, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Kyoko Sato, Soraya Boudia | Black Boys Apart, Freeden Blume Oeur | Migration, Incorporation, and Change in an Interconnected World, Syed F. Ali and Douglas Hartmann | The Quantified Scholar, Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra | Tainted Tap, Katrinell M. Davis | Power Grab, Paasha Madhavi | Gender, Sexuality, and Intimacy, Jodi O’Brien and Arlene Stein | The Color of Homeschooling, Mahala Dyer Stewart | The Toughest Beat, Josh Page | Breaking the Pendulum, Phil Goodman, Josh Page, and Michelle Phelps | Not for Long, Robert Turner |Total Liberation, David Pellow | The Black Elephants in the Room, Corey Fields | Blowin’ Up, Jooyoung Lee | Divided by the Wall, Emine Elcioglu | Citizen-Protectors, Jenny Carlson | The Revolution that Wasn’t, Jen Schradie | Midnight Basketball, Doug Hartmann | Assigned: Life with Gender, Lisa Wade, ed. | The Browning of the New South, Jennifer Jones | Grocery Activism, Craig L. Upright | Hard Work Is Not Enough, Katrinell M. Davis | Politics Beyond Black and White, Lauren Davenport | The Contexts Reader (second and third editions) | Owned, Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen, eds. | Crime and the Punished, Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen, eds. | Digital Punishment, Sarah Lageson | Social Theory Rewired, Wes Longhofer and Dan Winchester | Race, Nation, and Post-Colonial Citizenship, Ron Aminzade | Power Struggles, Jaume Franquesa | The Size of Others’ Burdens, Eric Schneiderhan | Hard Work Is Not Enough: KM Davis | Crossings to Adulthood, Swartz, Hartmann, and Rumbaut | World Suffering and Quality of Life, Ron Anderson | Undocumented Politics, Abigail Andrews | The Myth of Mob Rule, Lisa L. Miller | We Are All Criminals, Emily Baxter | The Social Side of Politics, Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen, eds. | Give Methods a Chance, Kyle Green, Sarah Lageson, Doug Hartmann, and Chris Uggen | Prozak Diaries, Orkideh Behzrouan | Getting Culture, Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen, eds. | Encore Adulthood, Phyllis Moen | Rights on Trial, Berrey, Nelson, and Nielsen | Retirement and Its Discontents, Michelle Pannor Silver | Politics of Empowerment, David Pettinicchio

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

Public Sociology

(Amateur Edition)

With Michelle Phelps, who received the 2019 Faculty Mentoring Award.

In May 2019, I was nearly as shocked as I was honored to receive the University of Minnesota’s Public Sociology Award. This award honors outstanding contributions to the discipline of sociology and the public conversation—and I’m not a card-carrying sociologist! But, I’ve been sociology-adjacent for over a decade now, and I really do see it as my mission to make sociological knowledge public knowledge. I can’t wait to see where my work will take me next!

“Be a Man”

My write-up on Ray Harrington’s award-winning documentary, “Be a Man,” from long-time client Stand Up! Records:

American universities are increasingly offering courses in masculinity—the ways it’s culturally and socially constructed, the ways its boundaries are policed, and the ways its constraints and contradictions put basically everyone on edge. But studying masculinity is different from trying, at an individual level, to define and achieve manhood. What does it mean to be a man? Who is that man? Ray Harrington has charmingly, brilliantly, and with utter vulnerability chronicled his journey to find out.

As he seeks his signature manly cocktail, discovers his dream car isn’t a half-million dollar phallic symbol, and maniacally gets into a boxing ring with a professional fighter, Harrington gathers his collaborators for a film that’s part love letter, part personal journey, part support group, and part road trip movie. Like any movie worth the popcorn, there are fast cars and fashion montages, dreamy landscapes and a lewd joke or two. Mostly, though, there’s an earnest rumination on modern manhood and how we all get by with a little help from our friends.

Featuring fellow stand-up comedians Kyle Kinane, Tom Wilson, April Macie, Doug Stanhope, Steve Rannazzisi, Robert Kelly, and Kurt Metzger, “Be a Man” boasts Grammy-winning Dan Schlissel as co-executive producer alongside Ray Harrington, who, despite a little razor burn and wrinkled linen, is, without a doubt, both a man and a “ten.”

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 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!

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