Beyond Academia

Monday, June 17, 2013

I've been putting my foot in my mouth a lot lately, and I did it on two different occasions while talking to a friend who teaches at a local university. She must think I hate academia, or at least that I think academics are elitist.

Actually, I love academia. If I didn't, would I have three post-graduate degrees? I even started my post-graduate life training to be a college professor.

But there is a wider world out there.

When I first started angling for someone to publish Writers in Wonderland, I got a bite from an academic publisher who stated that he was "a little leery" of the Lewis Carroll theme. According to the publisher, that theme "risks distracting or even irking a good number of readers, or worse yet, that all-important reviewer. We're not suggesting that you'd need to remove it entirely, but we'd want to discuss ways to tone it down by a good degree."

The Lewis Carroll theme is my way of standing out from the often dry competition. And although I would love to have Writers in Wonderland used as a textbook and to receive favorable reviews from "that all-important reviewer," my book is aimed at the ordinary writer who is neither a lawyer nor an academic. These are people who tend to avoid legal-themed books until they have no other choice, when it may be too late to avoid the Queen of Heart's courtroom. I was not willing to sacrifice my reader on the altar of convention, so I removed the hook from the publisher's mouth rather than from the book.

Yes, the book is unconventional and often describes legal concepts using analogies that might make some lawyers wince, but the analogies are apt and make the concepts easier for the lay writer to understand. The comments I've received from my intended audience consistently classify the book as being both information and enjoyable.

That's my goal. If it takes me away from academia, so be it.

But I still love the academic life.

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The picture shows Graves Hall at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and the anchor that is Hope's symbol. As Hope's founder said of its predecessor school, "This is my anchor of hope for this people in the future."

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