In the mid to late 1990s, the Berkeley campus offered to its doctoral students a dissertation writing workshop for Berkeley run by Dorothy Duff Brown. I remember it after all these years as a lifesaver. Brown offered so much good practical advice. Don’t rely solely on my computer but also make use of print in writing large documents. Decide as a matter of personal discipline (and sanity) when to stop working each day, rather than on when to begin. After all, writing a dissertation is a process of guilt management. Even more valuable than the advice, however, was the kind sympathy that the Dr. Brown offered me and my fellow grad students — something that was, alas, often in short supply on the campus.
I will have to find out from the Berkeley Grad Division what has happened to the dissertation writing workshop. I see mention of such workshops in a list of offerings. I am, however, glad to see that folks at Michigan State University had captured some of Dorothy Duff Brown’s wisdom when she spoke there.
I knew that Tracy Kidder is a famous writer but I didn’t know that he had received many of the most prestigious national literary prizes. For better or worse, that understanding has raised the chances I’ll end up buying Good Prose, the book he recently co-authored with Richard Todd, his long time editor. The book’s publicist certainly understood that a book on non-fiction writing will have to be sold on not only the merits of the authors’ reputation but also on first impressions of the content. And he standards will be high since the promise of learning from a master team are dangled before prospective readers/buyers.
I’m in no immediate need to buy the book since I just borrowed it from the university library. Ideally I can even read it once before deciding whether to spend money for my own copy.
I usually call my elected representatives to advocate for specific policy stances. I’m torn about whether Congress should vote to intervene militarily in Syria. (My heart and gut say no but I’m not totally sure.) So instead of advocating against military intervention, I currently plan to say to my Congressional representatives: put away the usual game playing, the stuff of day-to-day politics, and embrace fully the sobering task you have before you in deciding which potentially world-altering and calamitous actions to enact. Please help lead this country and me, your constituent, in this serious work of prayerful and thoughtful consideration.