National Author's Day!
What better way to celebrate than to begin a journey through a fellow author's work, eh?
Here are four books I recommend for textbook authors that have helped form my perspective on writing educational material.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.
Besides the fact that I love Lamott's informal and humorous storytelling, this book is one of the best books by a successful writer on on authoring that I've read. And I've read a few.
The title is based on advice given by Lamott's father to her overwhelmed brother when he realized that the report on birds that he had months to write was due the next day. Dad advised, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." What textbook author can't relate to that as we start a new project or revision?
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.
Written for students and teachers in an engaging, nontechnical style, this book identifies some key concepts in how we best learn for the long term. It turns out that there are some surprises revealed by recent learning research that turn some of the long-held ideas about learning upside down. Many of the techniques we have used help us learn for the next test, but do little if anything to help us "make it stick" in the long term.
When I was a new teacher, I was SO frustrated that my students seemed to remember nothing from their prior courses. Then I realized that no matter who their teacher or which school they attended before, this was just the way it is. I learned that my energy is better spent getting my students up to speed than to complain about their prior learning. And on changing my techniques to bolster long-term learning. After reading this book, I realized that it's the common methods of teaching and learning, not the failures of prior schools or teachers, that make my students underprepared. It confirmed some of the techniques I'd begun using in my courses and introduced me to others.
When we write textbooks, we teach. So I've been trying to adapt the emerging principles of learning science in my writing. This book has been a useful guidebook for that journey.
The last two (of four) books I'm recommending today have already been reviewed by me in recent posts, so I'll just list them here and link them to those previous posts.
Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide by Mary Ellen Lepionka, Sean Wakely, and Steve Gillen.
This new edition is available for pre-order for a December 2016 release.
Guide to Textbook Publishing Contracts by Steve Gillen
Short, well-illustrated book that every textbook author should use when reading, negotiating, or re-negotiating a publishing contract.