Writing Tips from Plural Authors

Have you ever thought of writing a book in your field? We know that writing a book is no small undertaking, so as part of our 10 year anniversary celebration we enlisted the help of our knowledgeable authors Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, Lynn Adams, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Lise Menn, PhD, to share advice on writing a best-selling book! Here you will gain some insight into the inspiration, motivation and hard work that goes into a best-selling Speech-Language Pathology and/or Audiology textbook and professional book.

1. What insight or tips would you offer to a first-time author who is writing a professional development book or textbook in the Speech-Language Pathology and/or Audiology field?

CRM: It is very important to make sure that your contribution is original—something that meets a need in the field. I never write a book that competes exactly with something currently in print. I always make sure that my book is unique, original, and has a perspective that no other book has. The questions I also ask are: who would want to buy my book? Why would they spend money on it? What value does it bring to them? What problems does my book help them solve?
It is so important to think about meeting the needs of your audience. As authors, we have our passions and enthusiasms. Who shares them?

LA: JUST START WRITING…..that is the hardest part!!

LM: Have a colleague in a related but different field read through your book to make sure it’s understandable to someone who doesn’t already know the subject matter.

Go back to the original published sources – amazing amounts of old material are easy to get on-line, and you’ll find that you get fresh insights from reading the classic papers instead of relying on the usual summaries. What you take away from a paper that you read for yourself might be quite different from what everyone else has said about it.

Create or find new examples instead of re-using the standard ones that everyone else uses. You might discover something in the process, too.

2. What was easy about writing your book(s)?

CRM: Plural’s enthusiasm and support. The folks at Plural are the nicest people, and they are always right there for you.

Also, doing the research is easy and a lot of fun. I think it may be my favorite part.

LA: Since the topic is near and dear….the desire to write was there and helped!

LM: Deciding what I wanted to communicate and what kind of style I wanted to use.

3. What was most challenging about writing your book(s)?

CRM: Deciding which information to put in and which to leave out. Honestly, weeding out the good from the best and most necessary is really tough. You want to put everything in your book that is written on a topic, but readers can become overwhelmed.

LA: Just typing the first word! It is scary to start, but then…if it is right…..it flows.

LM: Keeping sentences from getting too long. Also, just keeping going.

4. How did you approach writing the book(s)?

CRM: I made sure that my original idea was unique, creative, original, and added value to our field. Then, I made sure I had a publisher!! I see SO many people write a book and then try to find a publisher. Wrong move! You have to get a solid idea and pitch your proposal to a publisher. Once you have a contract, then and only then do you actually write the book.

LA: Outline, lit review AFTER I asked parents what THEY wanted.

LM: My goal was to try to write as vividly and simply as I possibly could. I used a style much closer to popular science writing (New York Times science pages, ScienceDaily) instead of the passive-voice, impersonal style that has unfortunately become seen as necessary for textbooks to sound ‘scientific’.

5. How did you keep yourself motivated throughout the writing and publishing process?

CRM: I don’t write during the school year. As a university professor, my school year is way too busy for writing. I am unable to write in short bursts. I need at least 2-3 hours to get my head into the process. To keep motivated, I clear my summers of everything but my family and my book. I have a writing schedule that I stick to no matter what—well, except for family vacations.

I have been privileged to write 6 books. A big “secret” of my success is just sitting down and getting started no matter how unmotivated I’m feeling. Also, I just pour out the words and type as fast as I can without editing. I then take a break and come back and read what I have written. This helps me not to stall and micro-edit each sentence.

I also think of my readers and imagine the benefits to them.

Mostly, I think about the children I serve and how great their needs are. I realize that if I stick with my writing and finish the book, I have the potential to help hundreds of children have better lives and brighter futures. In the end, that’s what keeps me going.

LA: Deadlines!!!

LM: The carrot: I love the topic. The stick: I didn’t want to disappoint the colleagues who had approved my book proposal.

6. What was your experience publishing with Plural like?

CRM: Terrific. They are helpful and supportive every step of the way, and always answer my questions promptly.

LA: A complete pleasure!!

LM: Plural was very supportive, especially with helping to get permissions and to locate relevant illustrations that they already had the rights to.

7. Why did you get into your field of study/work?

CRM: I wanted to work with children.

LA: LONG story….involving failed audition and crying and call to my mom….a Special Educator!!

LM: It seems like I’ve always loved language, and when there were opportunities to do research – especially when I could see that the existing literature was based on too little data — I jumped in.

8. What inspired you to write your book(s)?

CRM: I was inspired to write my book on serving the needs of children in poverty because I grew up in poverty myself. Also, as a part-time public school clinician, I have served many low-income students over the years. I continue to work with low-income students to this day, including low-income teen boys who are violent criminal offenders and have very low language skills.

It has broken my heart to see how dismal some of their futures are because their language skills are so low. They are set up for academic failure from the beginning, and I am determined to make a difference. It is inexcusable that in our country, 70% of prisoners don’t read over a 4th grade level. Many of them came from low-income backgrounds and had weak literacy skills…the vicious cycle needs to stop. I will do whatever it takes to be a part of the solution.

LA: Who? Parents of kids with ASD

LM: Not ‘what’, but ‘who’: the great clinical aphasiologist Audrey Holland – and the SLP’s who were frustrated by linguistics books that were written without caring about the readers in related professions who need to USE linguistics.

We hope you find these tips and anecdotes helpful in your pursuit of publishing your book. If you are interested in publishing a book with Plural Publishing, read the guidelines on submitting a book proposal here.

About the Authors

Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin received her PhD from Northwestern University. She is a Professor of Speech Pathology and Audiology at California State University, Sacramento. Dr. Roseberry is also currently a part-time itinerant speech pathologist in San Juan Unified School District where she provides direct services to students from preschool through high school. She is the author of Increasing Language Skills of Students from Low-Income Backgrounds: Practival Strategies for Professionals, Second Edition.

Lynn Adams is an Associate professor in the department of Communication sciences and Disorders at Valdosta State University, Georgia. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence form the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She has written two books for Plural: Group Treatment for Asperger Syndrome: A Social Skill Curriculum and Parenting on the Autism Spectrum: A Survival Guide, Second Edition.

Lise Menn, Professor Emerita, University of Colorado, has taught courses in linguistics, language development, psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics at the University of Colorado, Boulder and other schools since 1977. She has carried out collaborative research on aphasia with colleagues in many countries and has presented lectures, workshops, and short courses on the practical value of thinking psycholinguistically about language learning and language disorders.  She is the author of Psycholinguistics: Introduction and Applications.

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