with the assistance of
I gleaned some snippets of wisdom from the AALL Baltimore program "So You Wanna Be a Writer ... " which I want to share with you. Program panelists included Donna Tuke Heroy, Michael Saint-Onge, Peter Beck, Bob Berring and Frank Houdek.
Snippet #1: No Fear!! Don't let those nasty, subtle "fears of publishing" stop you from starting. Nearly all the panelists said that to get started, you must not let any pre-conceived notions of how difficult it is to be an author scare you. It is not difficult. You just need to decide to "Do it!" then DO IT!! How? Read on.
Snippet #2: You need an "Idea Trap." Capture that idea! This is important. You get this opinion, this idea, this "geeze, I wish someone would do something about ... , " this "I wonder if anyone has written about ... ," but you don't do anything about it. It just walks in one brain cell and goes out the other. So, how do you capture an idea? Write it down, that's what! Scribble it down ... heck, just a few words can do the trick. Don't let the idea slither away like you have in the past. Once you get the thing trapped on a slip of paper or note pad, you have this little acorn so you can go out on a limb and leave your routine work to do a little research and send a refined idea to an editor.
Snippet #3 - Mail, e-mail, voice mail, or fax your idea to someone who knows best what to do with it. Don't worry about an editor stealing your idea. All of the panelists stressed over and over again that editors want you to send them ideas. Editors will work closely with you to reach the best audience and to help make your final product look good. Good articles reflect not only on your skill and expertise as an author, but also, and perhaps more importantly to the editors, make their publication look good.
Snippet #4- To whom do you send your idea for publishing? Well, start with any of these experienced editors, all of whom are in the AALL directory: Peter Beck, Frank Houdek, Donna Tuke Heroy, Michael Saint-Onge, Brian Striman, Ellen McGrath. Or (you're gonna love this!), look at the list in the back of the AALL directory and you'll find AALL SIS Chairs (they know the SIS newsletter editor) and AALL Chapter presidents (they know their chapter's newsletter editor). Look at Dennis Benamati's and Evelina Lemelin's title Publication Opportunities for Law Librarians: An Author's Guide," or scan Research and Publications columns in past TSLL issues for names.
Snippet #5 - So we have the table set for a good research and publication "dinner," but no recipe. Gad! Let's look at some ingredients to help you out with what should be a scrumptious meal. Suggested ingredients include:
» Write about what you know: write about what gets your stew boiling; write something opinionated. Remember, editors are looking for interesting, eye-grabbing, attention-getting materials that will reach the greatest numbers of their readership.
» Be concise: avoid repetition, avoid being superfluous, avoid verbosity, avoid digressions, avoid vagueness.
» Do not repeat. No one wants to read rambling. It's important to say just what needs to be conveyed and not to repeat the same thing you just said.
» Avoid fillers, frills, runs, drivels, airs. Keep to the most important elements in your topic.
» Write about something in which you are interested. Sounds almost stupid to say, but it's true! An author's's interest in a topic is the motivation to begin an article or book and continue on with it. If you can't think of a topic, ask yourself what you like most and what you like least about your job, and don't hesitate to ask your colleagues for some help. They'll be glad to help you.
Maybe you need an example for this snippet stuff. Let's say you're an acquisitions librarian and you haven't a clue about what to write. On your desk sit half a dozen CD-ROM license agreements and you hate them. You don't know whether to take them seriously, toss them, or keep them. But, if you keep them, where and how do you keep them, and so on. Well that could be the stuff of a fantastic article, and it's right under your nose! The topic might be " What is the law regarding libraries and CD-ROM license agreements?" or "What are other law libraries doing with them?" You may need to send a survey to other law libraries to do some preliminary research, but it will be a valuable contribution to all those other librarians who are just like you, scratching their collective heads about license agreements.
Snippet #6- Toss your ego out the door when you put on your writer's cap. Keep your ego in check throughout the entire process, from drafts to finished printed product. Be patient and continue to work with your editor and be sure to keep the dialog open. There simply is no room for posturing about writing style, what constitutes correct grammar, etc. Editors and publishers are in their positions for good reason. You need to trust their judgment and do what needs to be done to get your material published, without needless delays.
Snippet #7- Consider a co-author. You don't have to tackle your first few writing projects single-handedly. Get a colleague to work on the project with you. "Co-for it!"
Finally, the single-most important facet to becoming an author is to re-read the first snippet above. Yep, that's what the panelists kept saying.
Ellen McGrath has the program tape and
will send it to members who request it.