So You Wanna Write For The Public?
If you are a student or scholar in the humanities who wants to be able to write about scholarly topics for a general audience, it can be difficult to know where to start. Many of us have been trained to write according to the stylistic conventions of a particular field, and may have difficulty communicating our ideas to anyone outside of it. Some of us may be confident in our writing abilities, but don’t know how to get our work in front of an audience. Below are some resources that might come in handy at various stages of your public writing process.
“Writing for a Public Audience” by Kelly J. Baker at Cold Takes – Kelly J. Baker is a pop culture analyst and PhD in Religious Studies. Her blog, Cold Takes, provides insights for scholars in various fields about how to improve their public writing.
“Writing History As If It Matters (to Lots of People)” by Jonathan Wilson at The Junto – Jonathan Wilson is a historian of nineteenth-century American national identity and print culture. He wrote a post for The Junto, a collaborative early Americanist blog, in which he solicited historians’ favorite guides to writing accessible narrative history, and other forms of narrative nonfiction:
- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
- Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences About Writing
- Jack Hart, Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction
- Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato, Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—And Get It Published
- Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, eds., Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
- James B. Stewart, Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
- John McPhee, “Structure: Beyond the Picnic-Table Crisis,” in The New Yorker
- Donna Seaman, interview with Erik Larson for Creative Nonfiction
- David Hackett Fischer, “The Braided Narrative: Substance and Form in Social History,” in Angus Fletcher, ed., The Literature of Fact
- Stephen Pyne, Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction
The OpEd Project – The OpEd Project provides training and support for under-represented experts (especially women) in various fields, in order to help them connect with media gatekeepers and communicate their ideas to the public.
The Conversation – The Conversation publishes articles by academics and experts in a variety of fields, with a focus on current events. Their mission is to provide a platform for well-informed, high-quality contributions to the public discourse.
National Endowment for the Humanities – The Public Scholars Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities provides funding of up to $5,000 per month for researching and writing books in the humanities that are intended for a large, general audience.
National Humanities Alliance – The National Humanities Alliance website offers a series of “Pitching the Humanities Tip Sheets,” intended to help scholars work with communications officers and raise their media profile. NHA Communications Manager, Alexandra Klein can be contacted with “questions about engaging the media.”