One common problem Booklab authors report is having to come up with fresh topics for conference papers that may never actually lead anywhere in terms of published research. Although the ideal situation is a conference topic that develops into an article and eventually becomes part of a book, real life is rarely that neat and precise. Instead, scholars often spend a great deal of distracting, rush-rush time on conference papers that wind up as unpublished computer files.
Milena Santoro in the French Department offered a workaround that I like much better. She suggests working on articles for publication from the beginning, and letting conference topics arise as the fruit of that research. Her logic is sound — a paper published in a key journal counts much more at tenure review than a conference presentation (sometimes as much as 3-4 times more). But if (for example) a journal article counts for 3 points and a conference presentation only counts one, they can be combined. An author can easily craft conference presentations from the paper’s core concepts or from outtake material that did not end up in the final draft, turning a three-point paper into four or five points without either increasing the writing workload or distracting the author from the goal of publishing the paper. Smart!
One year ago, on September 19, 2009, I began something called “60 Days of Journal Article Writing.” You can follow this link to the beginning at the bottom to read the whole thread.
Since then, in one calendar year, I have written two richly researched scholarly articles following Wendy Belcher’s system from Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. I’ve also gotten to know her a tiny bit through e-mail and my participation as a guest editor on her newsletter while she’s away on a Fulbright in Africa.
Think about that for a moment, though. A year ago I wasn’t sure I really knew how to craft journal articles, since my job focuses on books. Now, twelve little months later, I have one on submission at a key journal in my field awaiting a decision, and a second is ready to go. Instead of starting on a third I’m going to turn back to the book that they were written to support, but the year has not taken me away from the book at all. Writing those articles made me sharper, stronger, more prepared to tackle the book on its own terms. Placing it at a university press will be much easier with key articles in place at the right journals.
What a great year, and a superb way to start the fall. Please write to me if you want to get rolling on this same track of 1-2 scholarly articles per year and a book every three years.