Ahead of ASA 2015: highlights of 2014

First-Time Book Authors Writing Workshop, featuring Eviatar Zerubavel (Aug. 2014, San Francisco)

By Ruth Braunstein and Fiona Rose-Greenland


Following up on the Graduate Student Publishing Workshop held at the ASA Annual Meeting 2013, the Graduate Student Representatives to the Culture Section Council organized in 2014 in San Francisco a First-Time Book Authors Writing Workshop. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Culture Section and voluntary donations from participants, the workshop could be held within close proximity to the main conference hotels.

The workshop of approximately 65 people was led by Eviatar Zerubavel (Rutgers University), author of The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books, who offered graduate students and junior faculty members working on their first books practical advice about how to approach this complicated (and sometimes overwhelming) process.

During the candid and funny two-hour session, Zerubavel drew on his own experiences to help participants think through several aspects of their own writing process, including the challenges of scheduling time to write each day, the challenges of writing and revising a large manuscript, and the challenges of managing feedback from advisors, colleagues and editors. A lengthy question and answer session provided an opportunity to drill down into more specific issues that the first-time authors in the room were struggling with.

Overall, the event was a great success, and a number of participants sent comments to this effect, including this one:

Thank you so much for organizing the wonderful workshop with Eviatar Zerubavel. As a graduate student working on her dissertation, what was most revelatory was that productivity is not just about early mornings and fixed schedules, S.M.A.R.T. goals and Pomodoros, it’s about the psychology of the thing – setting your expectations low so you can exceed them and enjoy that smug (in my case) moment of self-congratulation, generating the drive to wake up and do it all over again – this had never occurred to me. I’m looking forward to applying these lessons in my own career! – Haj Yazdiha, Doctoral Student, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill


The opportunity to hear such a prolific scholar’s candid remarks about writing was invaluable. Beyond discussing the nuts and bolts of the process, his attention to how writing fits into your day-to-day life, not only as a scholar but also as a person with a host of other commitments and interests was refreshing. It was encouraging and advice many of us, including myself, needed to hear. – Kathleen C. Oberlin, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Grinnell College


I thought the session was excellent. Nice mix of practical tips and demystifying humor about the writing process. – Diana Graizbord, Doctoral Student, Department of Sociology, Brown University


Responding to the continuing interest in this type of event among Culture Section members, our current graduate student representatives (Michael Stambolis and Sean McCarron) are working with the Section Chair and the Chair-Elect to organize a similar session this year. Stay tuned for more details.


[This workshop was organized by the Graduate Student Representatives to the Council, Fiona Rose-Greenland and Ruth Braunstein, in collaboration with Roundtable Co-Organizer Claudio Benzecry and Chair-Elect Timothy Dowd.]