Faculty Scriptorium (faculty meeting together in silence to write scholarly stuff) begins again today in the Mortara Center. Please send a note if you’d like to attend, and I’ll give you the wheres and the whens. This grew out of a desire for protected time to write during the semester where we could still be together and enjoy the collegiality and accountability. It’s amazing how much less multi-tasking goes on when a colleague is present! I don’t even look at e-mail during the two hours.
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For faculty new to Georgetown at any stage of book publishing, Booklab is a great first stop. Small groups are forming now for the fall semester, and begin next week. The results from the summer were amazing, even life-changing, as faculty realized that scholarly publishing does not ever have to be lonely or arduous. The idea of collegial, straightforward, productive writing and publishing on a schedule without tension or undue delay has been life-changing for some participants who were reared in the old-school “figure it out yourself” style of scholarship.
Here’s my post from the Voltaic group (their posts are private, but I can share mine with you):
This morning was a-ma-zing. I have learned slowly what others have said over the years, that cutting an article can make it sound much more coherent, since readers don’t know what you didn’t say! Just going through and weeding out the interesting starts I had that went nowhere tightened the paper up to a manageable 11,000 words. Although I was sad to lose those ideas (some of them could have led somewhere), an article can’t do everything and I could have spent months tracking them down. Writing with E. in Scriptorium this morning was inspiring, and I’m looking forward to five big Scriptorium days next week. 9:30-noon, all week long.
Associate Dean Anne Ridder is a mainstay of the Wednesday faculty book group. Here’s what she writes about showing up on television in Europe:
My student with the Macedonian Embassy shared with amazement that he had seen my face on a recent Voice of America Macedonian newscast. The recent opening of [a cupcake store] attracted mobs – it’s now part of some reality show. It’s next door to our M Street office so, of course, on one of the hottest days I chose to get a half-dozen cupcakes for my Writing Lab partners. Apparently the sisters who just opened the business have “roots” in Macedonia. My tee-shirt matched some of the cupcakes which must have drawn the camera to me! The cupcakes are great but too small! It’s a good thing the shop is not on the corner near my campus office! Enjoy!
- ● Do you feel summer slipping away rather quickly?
- ● Would you like to super-charge your scholarly writing these last few weeks?
- ● Will you thrive in an environment of daily accountability with a variety of motivated colleagues?
- ● Are you ready to wring even more results out of this humid, 95-degree summer?
Then join the Thursday afternoon Voltaic team, a shorter-term power subset of the summer faculty scholarly publishing book groups, starting July 29. Although groups are generally open to all faculty, Voltaic is limited to tenure-line colleagues working on scholarly output only (please no trade books this time around, though they are welcome in larger groups), and it provides even more structure than usual. Here are just some of the highlights:
1. Four weekly meetings where you show work each time (July 29, August 5, 12 and 19 at 1:30).
2. Daily check-ins with colleagues on a rotating schedule.
3. Team and group daily writing options.
4. A hard deadline (you asked for it, you got it).
Interested faculty should RSVP personally to Carole Sargent.
PS: Regular summer groups will end the week of August 9, and fall groups for all faculty will begin the week of September 6. More details soon!
PPS: If you are already in a summer group and also want to do Voltaic, you may, but I suggest that you also remain with your group and simply come twice a week.
Peter has participated in faculty book and article publishing groups since last fall, and he bought this absolutely charming origami box of bookmarks on a recent trip to Warsaw. I took four images so you can see how it looks like a plain cube, and then as you open it, things become progressively more amazing. Each folded paper triangle is a corner bookmark that stays in the book very well; we could not shake it out.
Peter has such a sophisticated eye for art and for stylish small things as well. His writing is — not surprisingly — quite visual. This blog post is my thank- you note to him.
We’re back in the Pierce Room for Scriptorium today, a half-hour shorter because of the 11 a.m. Monday faculty scholarly publishing group.
Monday, July 5: 10-12
Tuesday, July 6: 9:30-11:30
Wednesday, July 7: No Scriptorium
Thursday, July 8: No Scriptorium
Friday, July 9: 9:30-11:30 AND 2-4
In reading so often about other people’s lives that make them sound witty/creative/wonderful, there is a dark sense of competitive doom, a gnawing anxiety that my own life will never be enough. Anne, Brockport, NY, written by hand to James Sturm of Slate who is conducting a no-internet experiment.
This honest cry resonated for me so strongly. Faculty who come to Booklab report it often, and I’ve felt it myself. There is always someone more accomplished, smarter, shinier, but when you put them all together in an environment that emphasizes achievement and masks vulnerability (such as on a university campus or, in the case of the writer above, in a bright, internet package), the effect — though artificial — can seem real.
A 500-year-old poem by Kabīr that has long been popular helped me think about it; 20 years ago a friendly hippie on a boat in Amsterdam wrote it out for me from memory. I’ve seen more than one version, and this one comes from an Internet source that isn’t perfect, but I’ll look for a more scholarly reference and adjust later:
I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
birds and animals and the ants–
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you
in your mother’s womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that’s why everything you do has some weird sense of failure in it.
When we look at others and feel small, it’s our projection, not reality. We see both our weaknesses and our strengths, but only their strengths if they hide or stage-manage the rest. One of the best things about the faculty book groups is the surprising regularity with which someone in a position of power and educational privilege will admit confusion or defeat, and others will immediately react with relief.
Oh, so we’re all like that.
Oh, so I’m not the only one.
On Friday, July 2, I will hold the 9-11 Scriptorium session at Lauinger Library, but NOT the 2-4 session.
Next week’s schedule will be similar to this week’s:
Monday, July 5: 9:30-11:30
Tuesday, July 6: 9:30-11:30
Wednesday, July 7: 9:30-11:30
Thursday, July 8: No meeting
Friday, July 9: 9:30-11:30 AND 2-4
I’m obsessed with the whole listening thing this week, and it reminded me of an observation from last year. A visiting scholar was here who was reputed to be a good listener. I spent some time with him, and it’s true that he was quiet, but sometimes it became alarming. I found myself chattering too much to fill the voids left by his not speaking. He was a meditator and contemplative, which explained part of it, but there was something decidedly un-peaceful about some of his quiet. Yes, he listened attentively, but he also wasn’t participating fully in conversation. My edgy observation was validated by a student employee of this office who said he made her nervous, and she always left his presence feeling as though she had volunteered too much information. I tried to become friends with him, and to a limited extent we succeeded, but over time I concluded that being around him and his lugubrious quiet was just too much work.
So yes, I suppose there is such a thing as too much listening, or confusing true, active listening with simply not talking. It’s a point for debate whether he was the one with the problem or we were (I’m willing to hear that it was our issue and not his!), but the kind of listening I prefer both as a speaker and a hear-er is the kind where we each give the other space and attention, but it is shared. Mutual. Energizing. Sometimes my turn, sometimes yours.
We’re working on this balance in the faculty book groups, and ideas and tips are all welcome.
One of the best things about the scholarly publishing groups is the friendly culture that springs up around them. People begin to connect in various ways, and we end up going out for coffee, writing together, and having little celebrations. Here are photos of flowers that authors brought to the groups… the hydrangeas are from Anne’s garden, the yellow rose is part of a bouquet from Gianni, and the sapphire phlox, white and yellow “Becky” shasta daisies, white and purple coneflowers, and the very cool sea holly (globe) came from Jo Anne’s garden. People also bring brownies, cookies, handmade marshmallows, pictures, furniture (yes, furniture) and music. All wonderful!
In scholarly publishing book groups this week we’ve been discussing listening, especially the time we spend listening to someone doing a check-in for the week. In a series of posts I’ll explore some tics from my own past — things I used to do under the guise of “listening” that were actually anything but, and that I have learned to handle better by running groups and reading books on listening.
#1 is saying “That’s just like me!” and then taking the conversation away from the speaker. In judicious moderation it can be fine — friends find things in common all the time, and sometimes that’s how they become friends in the first place — but there is an art to using such phrases that will work better for both parties than simply chiming in.
“That’s just like me” (TJLM) is like salt — we can sprinkle it here and there, but if we’re too heavy handed then the dish becomes inedible, and quickly. As children we were also taught to taste our food before salting it, so I would say taste (experience) the conversation before adding TJLM. Instead of saying the line spontaneously and taking the conversation back from the speaker, we can focus on encouraging the speaker to say more… to elaborate and expand. What usually happens is that eventually the speaker has said whatever needed to be said, and s/he indicates readiness to hear from listeners.
Then it would seem tempting to rush to TJLM right away, but pause a second. What would happened if we kept the topic on the speaker a bit more at that point by asking questions and understanding fully?
At some point the speaker will feel done both with speaking and with answering questions. In the context of a faculty publishing group, this will generally fall within the time limit dictated by the number of people present. Then it is completely fine to come in with TJLM and point out what we have in common with the speaker’s experience.
This model feels wonderful to speakers, who consistently report going away from such groups feeling heard and understood. It also feels great to listeners, who have a chance to point out shared similarities in a manner that seems like bonding and connecting rather than interrupting or taking the floor.