Writing


Glen Holt, ed of Public Library Quarterly asked me to submit an article based on a book chapter I wrote (Willingham, Taylor. “Literacy Internships: Take a Plunge into the Deep End.” Public Library Internships: Advice from the Field. Ed. Cynthia Mediavilla. Sage Publications, 2006. Chapter 14).  He found me when I posted part of the chapter that was NOT published on a discussion list. (Beats me which one!) I’ve managed to parlay that request into a proposal for three articles. (Just like me to make more work for myself, but I think this is a fabulous opportunity.)  I’m going to use this space to capture bits of ideas as they come up. I probably should be posting this to my professional blog at Austin-Pacific, but that is on Blogger which is not nearly as user-friendly or familiar to me as this format. Perhaps I’ll transfer these postings once I finish the article so that I can start a conversation with the readers. In the meantime, here’s what I proposed to Glen:

I’d like to take a slightly different angle and push more for library leadership for public engagement, particularly in light of the presidential campaign and the opportunity to engage their communities in the upcoming Citizen’s National Caucus in December. A presidential candidate is calling for national dialogues involving millions of citizens as a government reform platform in a speech this weekend. [NOTE: The candidate is John Edwards and the announcement was made earlier today on C-Span and is part of his One Democracy initiative] There will be dozens of op-ed pieces in major newspapers by non-partisan members of the dialogue and deliberation community early next week – not to support the candidate, but to call on ALL candidates to develop citizen participation platforms – and I would like to call on libraries to take a leadership role.

I see this as possibly the first of three installments. The second would be an expanded version of the role that literacy programs have played in building civic capital. The third would be some key findings from my current fellowship on Civic Entrepreneurship and perhaps co-authored with some researchers England I met last who are doing research on entrepreneurship in the public sector. We are like-minded souls who want to work together and publish together.

So I’m wading through articles I’ve written and collected. I will periodically post thoughts here or on on the Texas Forums blog if they seem appropriate for a wider audience.

I’ve been in a writer’s funk for over two weeks now, which is causing great headaches since I’m responsible for rewriting the Achievement Gap discussion guide here in Central Texas. I’m basing the framework on the National Issues Forums guide, but incorporating Texas data from E3 Alliance. I’m using Study Circles Resource Center guides as the stylistic model. Nance Bell did the hard work of wading through the data and put language around it for me and Rick Olmos helped outline the big chunks so it should be easy to do, right?

I’m stumped. Up to my eyeballs in data. I feel like I’ve got three square pegs, four round holes and nothing is fitting.

But I think I’m rounding a corner and here’s why. I’ve written issue books before, but I started with people’s experiences and framed the guide around the stories. In this case,  I’m working within a framework and don’t have the stories in my head. My writing feels dull and academic, but today I started interviewing people. DY was passionate and her energy carried me long enough to hammer out five pages that aren’t half bad. Tomorrow, I’ve got a list of people to call and on Thursday, I’ll get ten hours of videotaped stories for inspiration.

This is starting to get fun!

The next time I do this, I’m starting with the stories. Forget the data. It just gummed up the works for me. You can always add it later. (Maybe this is a sign that I’m right to not pursue a Ph.D. If I’m struggling with these 24 pages, think what a dissertation would do to me!)