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Featured Member Joanne Cooper – Mapping your way to publishing success

Tenure_in_the_Sacred_GroveJoanne CooperJoanne Cooper is a Professor Emeritus of Educational Administration at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards, including the University of Hawaii Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate Education. Cooper is a certified Courage & Renewal facilitator and founder of the Hawaii Courage to Teach Program.

Cooper has co-authored several books on the topics of writing, leadership, and education, including Tenure in the Sacred Grove, The Constructivist Leader, and Let My Spirit Soar: Narratives of Diverse Women in School Leadership. She has also authored dozens of book chapters, and is widely published in scholarly journals.

Here Cooper shares her tips on mapping your way to publishing success.

TAA: What techniques can you share that have helped you develop your writing process?

Joanne Cooper: “I find that using a ‘modular approach’ when writing makes me a more productive writer. I select a particular sub-topic or chunk that needs writing and then set that as my writing task for the day. Often I use a concept map to organize these sub-topics and decide how to order them in the paper. My coauthor Dannelle Stevens and I have taught concept mapping to many audiences at professional conferences and participants find it SOOO useful!

Let_My_Spirit_SoarThe_Constructivist_LeaderConcept mapping is a simple but effective technique when it comes to sorting out the flow of your writing. First you put a single idea on each of a number of small sticky notes. After this ‘brainstorming’, you try to organize the ideas into larger ‘clumps’, arranging and rearranging the sticky notes into useful larger categories. Then you put a label on each ‘clump’ in a process I often call ‘name that clump’. These ‘clumps’ are then used as a module from which to write a section of your paper.

I am also a dedicated journal keeper and I have had so many ‘aha’ moments from this process! In 2009, I coauthored a book on journal writing with Dannelle Stevens, Journal Keeping: How to Use Reflective Writing for Learning, Teaching, Professional Insight and Positive Change.

Free writing in your journal is a great way to warm up and also to see what you have to say on a particular topic. Writing is always a process of discovery. I also love the dialogue process…it allows you to access your inner wisdom and to see things from a different perspective.”

TAA: Do you have any tips to share regarding expediting your publication process?

JC: “Don’t be afraid to call the publisher and talk about what they have in mind. Publishers are people too and they are often very happy to enter into a dialogue about what works and what doesn’t in your particular article or text. If you are afraid to call someone you don’t know, rehearse all the possibilities before you call. You might even use the dialogue process from our journal keeping text (mentioned above) to practice what you want to say, making sure it is clear and succinct.”

TAA: What are your thoughts on working with a collaboration partner?

JC: “Most of my publications have been written with co-authors. I really like working together with someone more than working alone. I find that the synergy of collaborating creates a better product in the end.

My most recent article was written with a new colleague from my department. At this stage in my career I am happy to collaborate as a way to mentor new faculty. He came to me with the idea and I insisted that he be first author as he needs the publication much more than I do. We tossed drafts back and forth like a baseball after several conceptual meetings where we discussed what we wanted to do. Our process was to create a draft and leave sections for the other to fill in, deciding who had the strongest background in that particular area. It was a delightful meeting of the minds and the article has just been published in a highly respected journal, Qualitative Studies in Education.”

TAA: What is your approach to writing?

JC: “I would define my approach to writing as one that is structured but also with comfort. To be optimally productive, I have to write on a regular basis. I can’t wait for the muse to hit…I need to glue my bum to a chair and write! I find that being comfortable is important to me. I usually write in the recliner in my living room with my laptop, or I find an even quieter place if necessary. I also believe in rewarding myself for hard work, and writing is hard work. Sometimes I feel a need for the reward WHILE I am writing, so I go out to eat while I write.

I find that I can’t write for hours at a time…plus I usually don’t have big chunks of time, so I write in shorter more regular bursts. Robert Boice, author of Advice for New Faculty Members and head of a faculty teaching center at SUNY Stonybrook, has done a great deal of research in this area and has found that writing regularly in short periods works best for academic writers.”

TAA: What kind of goals do you set for yourself? 

JC: “My goals are usually defined by my deadlines. When writing with a partner we set goals or ‘to do’ lists for each of us at the end of each meeting so we know what we each need to do before we meet again. This way, there is agreement about who is to do what and a structured way for us to move ahead.”

TAA: What are your favorite TAA benefits?

JC: “I love the annual conferences, the chance to learn from others and to network. I have learned so much from the sessions TAA plans and find the staff helpful and supportive. When I had cancer, they sent me a fruit basket with get well wishes. No organization has EVER done that before or since! What thoughtful and caring people! I also have received books as one of the first conference registrants and have come home with some very useful texts! TAA is a treasure house of useful information.”