National Writing Project

Book Review: Educators as Writers: Publishing for Personal and Professional Development

By: Britton Gildersleeve
Date: December 10, 2009

Summary: Edited by Carol Smallwood, this collection of short pieces from published teacher-writers offers concrete, useful strategies covering every aspect of writing for publication in a variety of genres.


Is there an NWP teacher-consultant who doesn't have at least one story, poem, or book lurking beneath the surface? Is there one of us who doesn't dream of publishing our writing? Carol Smallwood's Educators as Writers: Publishing for Personal and Professional Development is a perfect one-stop shopping trip for both beginning and experienced teacher-writers wanting to publish.

Full of useful strategies from published teachers across the country, the book draws on the advice of writers in all genres—from textbook to children's chapter book to nonfiction and poetry—as well as blogs, online diaries, and writers' websites. Markets covered range from literary magazines to regional markets and national houses.

Just looking at the book's table of contents is itself an education on all that's involved in moving from vague idea to well-written (and published) actuality. The book is divided into sections—"Getting Started," "Submitting Your Work," "Working with Publishers," "Non-book Writing," "Book Writing" and "Writing Life of a Professional."

Within each section, each chapter examines a single factor of publishing. In the section on book writing, for example, Charles T. Dorris covers collaboration; Suzanne L. Bunkers examines writing your life; and Katie McKay looks at how to write the young adult novel.

Demystifying Publishing

Smallwood’s writers demystify the confusing and sometimes intimidating world of publication

Smallwood's writers demystify the confusing and sometimes intimidating world of publication, beginning with such concrete challenges as keeping accurate submission records. Each article is short, focusing on a single element of the writing and/or publishing processes.

Contributor Sharon Chmielarz, for instance, is a 30-year veteran teacher who writes on "Transferring Classroom Skills onto the Page."As a teacher in front of her class she is committed to the strategies of "show don't tell," using anecdotes to gain attention, and having patience. What teacher hasn't, for instance, pulled a distracted classroom back together with a well-chosen anecdote? Chmielarz shows how to adapt that skill to strengthen one's writing for the publishing world.

Another piece—Cynthia Brackett-Vincent's "Submitting for Publication: Dos and Don'ts from an Editor/Poet's Point of View"—details specific elements to include in a submission and lays out how to approach the publishing process, including what to avoid: Do request writer's guidelines, she tells us. And don't be in too much of a hurry to send off your manuscript; review it more than once, checking all the details, whether it's editorial information or spelling.

While these recommendations may seem evident to those who've already learned the submission process the hard way, such advice goes a long way to saving novice submitters from having a precious manuscript returned unread or even unopened (and yes, it happens—especially if you use a previous editor's name on the envelope).

Smallwood also includes short pieces on how to write the cover letter and the proposal (she offers models for both textbooks and nonfiction) and evaluates such things as writers' workshops and conferences.

Educators as Writers would make a wonderful text for a site continuity event focused on how to move from the deadline drafts of a summer Institute to a manuscript ready to find its way in the publishing world.

About the Author Britton Gildersleeve directs the Oklahoma State University Writing Project.

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