Friday, March 21, 2014

Writing :: Chapters in the Handbook of Writing and Textual Production

Handbook of Writing and Text Production
Ed. Eva-Maria Jakobs and Daniel Perrin

Here's another entry in my series on writing publications.

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, in 2011, I met Eva-Maria Jakobs at the Writing Research Across Borders conference in Washington, DC. She and coeditor Daniel Perrin were trying to recruit authors for a visionary collection on writing and textual production, one in which each chapter would be coauthored by two scholars from different continents. My mentor David R. Russell introduced us, and we hit it off immediately—we chatted about the proposed structure, discussed what scholars to approach for some of the chapters, and agreed that I would coauthor one of the chapters (on writing in professional domains) with her.

When we got back to our respective institutions, we began Skyping and sharing drafts, and quickly discovered that we had the same approach to scholarly writing—write quickly, iterate rapidly, read and cite extensively. We coauthored the chapter, but also the introduction to the section in which it appeared:

  • Jakobs, E.-M. & Spinuzzi, C. (2014). The domain perspective in text production research. Handbook of Writing and Text Production, ed. Jakobs, E.M. & Perrin, D. De Gruyter: Berlin/New York. 325-332.
  • Jakobs, E.-M. & Spinuzzi, C. (2014). Professional domains: Writing as creation of economic value. Handbook of Writing and Text Production, ed. Jakobs, E.M. & Perrin, D. De Gruyter: Berlin/New York. 359-384.

I greatly enjoyed this collaboration, and I'm especially happy with the work we did on "Professional Domains," which synthesizes work on professional writing across Europe and North America and suggests future developments. Sometimes collaborations don't go well, and sometimes they are adequate, but this collaboration really worked brilliantly for at least three reasons:

  • We both made it a priority. People have lots of demands on their time, and often a collaborative writing project will take a back seat to other priorities. In this case, Eva and I both made these chapters a priority. We had frequent Skype meetings in which we agreed upon writing and research tasks, then faithfully executed those tasks before the next meeting. More than that, we read and commented on each others' writing and we suggested sources and read each others' sources. And we kept a calendar of changes so we always knew where the endpoint was.
  • We appreciated each others' work while still providing critical comments. It's sometimes tricky to critique people's work, but in this collaboration, it was easy. We respected each others' expertise and collaboratively developed angles that we wouldn't have been able to provide on our own.
  • We read widely. Eva reads English and French; I unfortunately read only English. But Eva was great at providing me with appropriate translations and pointing to English works that I hadn't read yet; I was able to tie in some work in English that she hadn't seen. In our Skype meetings, we worked to integrate all of this scholarship and prune redundant work as appropriate. The result was a pair of chapters that crossconnected a lot of research across two continents.
Overall, it was a great collaboration, and I hope you'll find the resulting chapters to be useful too.