October 20, 2003

Manuscript development program widens scope

By Eric Rangus

Begun last year as a pilot, the provost office’s Manuscript Development Program provides a developmental editor to selected Emory faculty who are preparing book manuscripts for publication. The goal is to create better structured, more cogent and accessible scholarly manuscripts.

As the program’s pilot year winds down, its impact has been judged a success. Not only has it been renewed for another year but a great deal more programming is being planned, all revolving around common challenges in scholarly writing.

"While writing workshops for faculty exist at some other institutions, every university has a different culture and different faculty needs" said Amy Benson Brown, the program’s director. "This year’s planned programming is based a lot on conversations with faculty here at Emory."

For instance, the subject matter of the upcoming colloquia "From Dissertation To Book," was driven by the fact that roughly 40 percent of the applicants for last year’s manuscript development award were doing just that—writing a book based on their dissertations.

Broken into two sessions, the colloquia will explore two different approaches to revision. Some dissertations need to be completely redesigned to work as books, while others need vital but less substantial reworking.

Each session will begin with a brief overview of resources on the process of revising dissertations. On Thursday, Oct. 23, from 4–5 p.m. in 114 Candler Library, Miriam Peskowitz (’03G), a visiting professor at Temple University, will discuss how she wrote her debut book, Spinning Fantasies, and used just one line from her Emory dissertation.

The second colloquium will feature Leslie Harris, associate professor of history, who revised her dissertation into a book, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863. That event is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 6, from noon–1:30 p.m. in 103 White Hall. Both events are free and open to the entire Emory community.

The colloquia are just two of the program’s new features for 2003–04. The core of the program remains the one-on-one editorial assistance that Brown, a twice-published author and associate editor of the Academic Exchange, provides to faculty writers. Currently, she is finishing up her work with ILA’s Kimberly Wallace-Sanders and religion’s Paul Courtright, the program’s first two faculty participants.

To apply for the upcoming year, faculty should send an 800–1,000-word overview of their project to Brown as well as a current vitae. In addition to explaining the manuscript’s subject and purpose, the overview should state why receiving the award would help with their work. The application deadline is Dec. 9, the two award recipients will be announced in mid-January, and the award period begins June 1, 2004.

"The application should show us where they are in the writing process, and they must have the research completed," said Brown, who is part of the six-member committee that will select the recipients. "A good portion of [last-year’s applicants] had most of a first draft finished."

Applicants need not have a book contract in hand, though. If one has not been secured, Brown will help them craft a book proposal.

While there is some time between the end of this term and when the nitty-gritty of the next round of book editing will begin, that doesn’t mean that the program will lie dormant.

In the spring, the program will sponsor a trio of workshops for faculty. "Great Writers Steal" will explore ways academic books can become more readable through the use of fiction strategies and techniques. Elizabeth Gallu, a creative nonfiction writer and conference coordinator in the provost’s office, will assist Brown in this workshop.

"Quick and Dirty Editing for Academics" will be a technically oriented workshop geared toward line editing; and self-explanatory workshop "Dissolving Writing Blocks" will outline strategies to help writers avoid inevitable stoppages and get back to the keyboard. Each workshop is limited to 12, participants and signups will be accepted through Dec. 1.

Faculty interested in participating in the spring in small writing groups also should contact Brown by Dec. 1. These small groups—ideally three to five people—will provide authors with peer feedback. Brown, who will act as facilitator, said the groups will meet about every six weeks at the members’ convenience to support each other’s progress and offer advice and constructive criticism.

All communication and applications regarding the Manuscript Development Program and its upcoming programming should be sent to Brown at 313 Administration Building or abrow01@emory.edu. Her phone number is 404-712-9082.