2018 FFPP Fellowship Application Deadline is October 27!

As you know, The Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP), sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Recruitment and Diversity, is the only CUNY-wide program that supports tenure track faculty achieve the research and publishing goals that are necessary for tenure.   It represents the University’s important commitment to diversity and faculty excellence.  Assistant professor who are accepted into the program will receive release time to focus on their writing projects as they participate in writing groups led by a faculty Mentor.
Please share this link with the call for application instructions, important meetings dates, and more information about the program.  The application deadline is Friday, October 27.  Fellows will be notified by November 17.

Predatory Publishing Alert from Mark E. Hauber, University Vice Provost for Research

Dear Colleagues,

It has come to our attention that several CUNY authors, including PSC-CUNY grant funded researchers, may have been exposed to ‘so-called’ predatory publishers, including having to pay open-access fee charges for articles appearing in journals of ill repute.

Could you please alert your faculty of these dangers, perhaps by circulating the attached Nature article on “The Dark Side of Publishing”?


Here, D. Butlers suggests the following​ (quoted from p. 435):

“A checklist to identify reputable publishers
How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher.
● Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information, including address, on the journal site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
● Check that a journal’s editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of them and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
● Check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees.
● Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
● Read some of the journal’s published articles and assess their quality. Contact past authors to ask about their experience.
● Check that a journal’s peer-review process is clearly described and try to confirm that a claimed impact factor is correct.
● Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org).
● Use common sense, as you would when shopping online: if something looks fishy, proceed with caution. D.B.”

Mark E. Hauber, Ph.D., D.Sc.
University Vice Provost for Research
City University of New York
205 E 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA
+1/646-664-8910; mark.hauber@cuny.edu
www.cuny.edu/research @CUNYResearch
www.cowbirds.org @cowbirdlab
Editor-in-Chief, The Auk: Ornithological Advances
www.americanornithologypubs.org @AukJournal

On the Importance of an Intellectual Project

Now that I have reached the doyen stage of my career, I find myself frequently called upon to serve as an external reviewer for junior faculty who are being considered for promotion and tenure. The process begins with a letter from a departmental chair asking if I am willing to give my candid assessment of the candidate’s scholarship. Since my own research and writing are centered on race and ethnicity in American society, I am usually asked to evaluate the work a young scholar whose research is more or less within my domain of expertise. I am mindful of the unspoken fact that I have been thrust into the role of gatekeeper, and also mindful of the sinister role that gatekeepers have played historically in marginalizing minority and radical viewpoints. So I take on this otherwise mundane obligation with a sense of intellectual and moral responsibility. “It goes with the territory,” as my friend Hylan Lewis once told me, when he was the age that I am today.

Some colleges stipulate a mathematical benchmark of how much productivity one needs for tenure. We are told, for example, that one needs one book and four articles, with the caveat that the articles must be in peer-reviewed journals. I find this last stricture to be totally wrongheaded. To paraphrase C. Wright Mills, the peer review system is an instrument for intellectual conformity, since it is so often antagonistic to dissenting viewpoints. Besides, by what twisted logic is the lottery of a peer-reviewed journal more reliable than, say, being invited to contribute to an edited volume that will reach a relevant audience? Why is it better to have your work subjected to the whim or judgment of anonymous reviewers, and promulgated to disinterested readers of journals that, as is commonly acknowledged, “nobody reads”? This is where pious observance of the false god of objectivity leads us. Indeed, a cottage industry of journals has sprung up, often attached to sections within professional societies, which go through the motions of being “peer reviewed,” in order to meet this specious requirement. Sadly, the pursuit of knowledge has been reduced to gaming the system.

Before long, a package arrives in the mail, whose bulk is the first indicator of the productivity of the scholar, as well as the onus that awaits the external reviewer. Already, the shibboleth of one book and four articles is exposed. If that was the fulcrum for tenure decisions, it would hardly require the intervention of an external reviewer.

My modus operandi in reviewing “the tenure package” stems from my interest in the sociology of knowledge and the history of ideas. I attempt to discern the applicant’s intellectual genealogy based on what I can glean from the cv, publications, conference papers, and other professional activities, including contributions in the realm of public intellectualism. I try to get a sense of the germination and direction of the applicant’s scholarship, and how these disparate elements gel into an original intellectual amalgam, culminating with the dissertation. As we know at FFPP, often these young scholars are making the challenging transition from dissertation to book. Clearly, the dissertation and first book is a pivotal stage of intellectual development, where the neophyte consolidates what I am calling “an intellectual project.” And is a neophyte no longer!

As we all find out, one line of inquiry invariably engenders more questions than it answers, leading to other unanticipated lines of inquiry. Here the intellectual project reaches the next step. Our neophyte gradually develops an expertise and reputation as a scholar with depth and purpose. Hopefully, this intellectual project is predicated on a critical perspective that challenges stale orthodoxy and hegemony within the realm of ideas. This critical spirit is the sine qua non that will infuse your research and writing with energy and conviction, lest promotion and tenure lapse into professionalism.


–Stephen Steinberg, FFPP Mentor and Distinguished Professor (Queens College and the Graduate Center)

The FFPP Writing Group That Didn’t Stop

When the fellows in my 2016 FFPP writing group said goodbye at the end of the spring semester, it turns out they were only saying goodbye to me! Months later, when I had occasion to catch up with one of the seven members of the group, I learned that in fact they had never stopped meeting. Now, nearly a year after their official time together ended (and with their FFPP release time long gone), this group of CUNY colleagues continues to read and workshop each other’s writing.

To my mind, this group—Ria Banerjee (Guttman Community College), Megan Behrent (NYC College of Technology), Alison Better (Kingsborough Community College), Allison Curseen (Baruch College), Sarah Hoiland (Hostos Community College), Julia Rossi (John Jay College), and Alex Welcome (LaGuardia Community College)—offers a model of collegiality, professionalism, and engaged scholarship that can be of wonderful use to current and future fellows. What follows are the group members’ responses to my recent query:

“What is the story of this writing group-that-never-stopped? How did you keep going? What is the secret to your success (strategies, key moments, modes of support)?”

I hope you will find this conversation both energizing and enlightening as you consider ways to extend the good work of your FFPP writing group into the future. I share the comments below with the fellows’ permission and with my deepest thanks to them.

Matt Brim, Associate Professor of Queer Studies, Department of English, Director, Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, College of Staten Island, CUNY



“What is the story of this writing group-that-never-stopped? How did you keep going? What is the secret to your success (strategies, key moments, modes of support)?”


Dear Matt and colleagues,

I think what was key in our group is how cool every project was/is. We became super engaged in each other’s academic paths because most of the time our FFPP meeting did not sound like extra work but like having some fun. Our topics were somehow irreconcilable… weren’t they? And that is how we could come up with inexpert views that enriched each other’s sometimes tired ways of understanding certain topics. Fresh looks and genuine interest fueled our meetings and kept us connecting beyond what was mandatory. To what our original purpose was: we should mention we scheduled some meetings to work with specific grant applications (besides the applications we discussed during our regular meetings, we had one extra productive session right before PSC-CUNY apps were due) and a collaborative project Ria created (and included me!). I hope this helps!



Maria Julia Rossi, Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Gender Studies Affiliated Faculty, John Jay College, CUNY


Dear Matt,

It’s lovely to hear from you! When you ask what kept us going over this last year, I think it’s a combination of really liking the people in this group, respecting their scholarly work, and setting good plans. But to my mind, there are riders to all three aspects. For one, I’ve been in working groups with friends before and it’s been very hard to work because I/we were too easily distracted by personal talk; in our group, we know each other well but there’s a slight reserve (not sure what else to call it) that helps us focus. These are my first professional friendships, which I’m finding is a different mode of knowing and enjoying people.

On a related note, you’re still a big part of our group dynamics. You gave us a great model: letting us warm up for a quarter hour or so, then having a review with the “cone of silence”. We use that strategy consistently in our meetings. We’ve discarded or modified other parts of your practice–for instance, sometimes we still generate review letters but I find in-line comments plenty. However, the in-person routine we absorbed from you has remained central to our practice.

Second, I like my colleagues work. We have our own styles of writing and also professional aims that sometimes overlap, sometimes not. Despite individual differences, it has really helped me to remain committed to the group because I’m continually impressed by the drive and generosity of the others. I want to be as good as them, so I keep writing and polishing even when I want to give up on the whole exhausting project. And I want to give good comments on their work because they have always given me useful advice. I imagine this is a cyclical generative thing within the group: we create the ambition and then pursue it, and when things are rough, I know there are 6 others trying and failing and succeeding around me.

Lastly, I think it’s crucial that we plan for a semester’s worth of meetings. Sarah is especially great at making us set those plans, even though May or June feel unimaginable when we are sitting around a table in December or January. Sticking to our meeting times and sending writing out per schedule needs a lot of mental preparation for me! I need to have something inked into my planner weeks in advance so that I don’t flake at the last minute.

These are, for me, the aspects that are most important in our group dynamics. I hope some of this helps with your post! I’m keen to know how others see it, too–how interesting to compare our views of the same things.

With all my best,


Ria Banerjee, Assistant Professor of English, Program Coordinator, Liberal Arts and Sciences Guttman Community College, CUNY


Hi Matt,

For me, the group was able to  keep going for a number of reasons. I identified 4 qualities (which for the campy fun of it I call F.F.P.P.)  that I think have really helped our group continue successfully.

1) FOUNDATION: the model established during FFPP is a really good foundation, and yes we have revised it many times as we continue to meet, but the solid foundation is core especially since we are coming from different disciplines, institutions, schedules etc.

2) FLEXIBILITY:  we’re flexible about what we workshop and how. So we have looked at chapter and article drafts, fellowship applications, proposals, and we look at things in super super rough iterations and things that are really polished. And while I think we are always working from the kind of core foundation established during FFPP, we do modify our workshop style depending on type of writing: i.e. sometimes we workshop two folks and sometimes just one. When we workshopped our PSC-CUNY applications, we did not read them  ahead of time, but read them in person. We have also been amenable (even during the FFPP semester) to what I call satellite  meetings. So we have a core plan, but we have repeatedly been open to someone saying hey does anyone have an extra  moment to look at a conference abstract or paper for one random hour. There’s no expectation that everyone has to participate in this extra meeting or that it has to be in person etc. In this way I think our writing group is more like a collective. We have a strong core, but we can adapt to accommodate many of our various needs.

3) PEOPLE:  One of the reasons our group works is that we just got a really good group of people, and I think we all know that and are thankful for it. Not only does the group allow us support with our research and writing, we also really enjoy each other’s company and over time have developed a lot of trust that enables us to work through a variety of issues we face as junior faculty even beyond writing concerns. Even when we vehemently disagree, I think our group is genuinely supportive and receptive to what each person brings. It’s not just a matter of collegiality or tolerance; I am under the impression that for the most part everyone in our group is attracted to/entertained by/ intrigued by/ or just open to not only the points where we are similar or compatible but also to the points where we are different and maybe even incompatible. Everyone in our group is super dynamic, though in distinctively different ways. I think the effect is that we are all constantly energizing each other. Okay I hope this helps.

4) PRESENCE:  So even in the core meetings, no one has perfect attendance, but I think people police themselves and try to be balanced. Like no one seems to expect more of the group than what they put in, and most of all when we are there, everyone is super engaged and present. Everyone’s trying to give something.



Allison S. Curseen, Assistant Professor, English Department, Baruch College, CUNY


Hi all,

I’ll emphasize a few points that other people made that resonated with me.

1) The foundation, as Allison calls it. I think from the very beginning there was a tone set that was both serious and professional about the scholarship, but also incredibly open and warm in encouraging people to raise other concerns that arose as junior faculty members at CUNY. The format provided for reader responses and the structure of each meeting with the ‘cone of silence’ an integral part, really helped to shape the discussion and provided a framework that we continue to use, even if we no longer use the full written response model.  The combination of consistency in terms of how we structured conversations and flexibility in what people could submit (as well as allowing space for digressions) provided a model for how to have constructive sessions.

I think an important aspect of the success of this model is creating a space for discussions that don’t happen in departments or on any of our campuses. As someone who came from a non-traditional academic background, the world of scholarship and publishing can feel very daunting and mystifying. Being in a room with other people trying to figure out some of the same things, and negotiating other challenges, creates a space that gives people more confidence, I think.

2) The People & Interdisciplinarity. From the very first meeting, what immediately excited me were the fascinating topics people brought to the table — and the interesting approaches people took to them. In this regard, I think it was actually helpful to have an interdisciplinary group. It meant different people brought different perspectives to responses, but it also meant none of us really share specialties even if there’s a lot of overlap. Each of our projects are very distinct, as is our way of thinking, approach to writing, etc. I think this enriches the group . It makes it easier to be challenged by the group in the sense that the incredible work I was reading made me want to rise to the occasion and produce better writing, research and feedback myself. At the same time, the work is different enough that I never felt like I was somehow comparing my own work to other people’s in a way that might have felt unproductive or stifling–and, I just learned so much about Moms Mabley, Women’s Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, Topsy, Architecture & Modernism, Sex Stores, servants in Garro’s work, etc. I agree with other people that this has meant that I feel very invested in other people’s projects and want to see them succeed. These are books I want on my bookshelves.

On a personal note, I have never been a room with people who have so challenged me as a writer, researcher and thinker without making me feel bad. The criticism I have received, I take to heart–it has made me more aware of tendencies in my own work (and, now when I write, I frequently hear distinct voices of people in the group in my head!). But it has also made me somewhat clearer about what kind of work I want to do.



Megan Behrent, Assistant Professor of English, NYC College of Technology/CUNY


Hi all,

Thinking about Matt’s request and reading everyone else’s thoughts leads me to this:

Why did we work? First, we were guided and held together from the beginning by Matt, our mentor. His leadership of our group has really shaped our ways of confronting our writing challenges and our professional selves. Even as we moved on to meet after FFPP, we have kept much of the structure set out for us by Matt.

From the beginning, we were all invested in each other, in our new-ish identities as junior faculty, in our ideas of shaping and reshaping our research projects, in strengthening our writing projects, our teaching, and our professional selves. This group has always felt tremendously supportive, both personally and professionally. In addition to supporting our writing projects, we have also worked on and discussed grants, promotion, teaching, and conferences.

Our different, but intersecting projects also have drawn us closer. I think this group’s interdisciplinarity has been a major strength. We all have such different things to contribute to each other and to learn from each other and we have always entered these conversations with openness. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, as a group we have always approached our work together with kindness. This group has always been incredibly generous with time and supportive of all of our endeavors. Kindness isn’t always common in academia. It’s been a gift to have the space and time to spend with this group to help push our work forward, become more thoughtful writers and scholars, and to have a supportive community to return to.

Looking forward to hopefully seeing you all soon!


Alison Better, Associate Professor and Area Coordinator, Sociology, Co-Director, Women’s and Gender Studies Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services, CUNY/Kingsborough Community College


I think this group works because a of a couple of things.

First, I think the disciplinary mix is good.

You have what is basically a group made up of Sociology and English people. And, there’s a decent amount of variation within and between those groups. No one does the exact same thing as anyone else, but there’s a lot of shared knowledge. People will know what you are talking about and be able to give you a reflective take on your topic.

Second, I think we are all at the stage of trying to figure out how to tell the stories that we want to tell. Everyone in this group has a story, and is facing some troubles in telling that story. Each story is interesting, and each story is entangled with other great stories. This translates to each writer being invested in developing their own work and each group member being intrigued by elements of the stories that they hear from others. People have often said that the advice that they give is advice that they need to take themselves. I think this thing—the nature of storytelling—is something that we often talk about, or address, but don’t name. It comes through most clearly in what we ask people to add their writings and the things that we suggest people take out of their writings and save for another time.

Third, no one is a jerk. There’s no showboating or big-timing.

Fourth, none of us have written a book yet. We all have that as a shared project. This is a larger shared goal, the weight of it hanging over everyone’s head. There’s a certain combination of anxiety that is being productively channeled.

Also, and this is strongly tied to my fourth point, we are all trying to become comfortable with our works moving the margins of our disciplines. I don’t think that anyone is writing something that is traditional in their discipline. Everyone is trying to make expansions in content, method, topic, etc.

Lastly, I think that Matt did a really good job of letting the group be what it could be. I always felt that he wanted us to do certain things, but I never felt that he wanted us to be certain things.

Alex Welcome, Assistant Professor of Sociology, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


Dear All,

First, I really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on our group and agree wholeheartedly, especially with the foundation and structure provided by FFPP with Matt at the helm, the people and the diversity of research topics and disciplinary, educational, and personal backgrounds, and the professionalism (as Matt called it and as Megan detailed in her response).

So, what do I have to add for the Commons?

Our FFPP group has challenged me as a writer, as a researcher, and as a reviewer. I have learned so much over the past 15 months about what it takes to polish writing for publication and have become much more confident through the process. There is no hierarchy between the 2-year faculty and the 4-year faculty and there is none of the competitiveness that is so common in academia. We see each other as equals and there is genuine support for the success of every member of the group. We support each other and at times propel each other to submit work that is past-ready for publication, apply for grants and fellowships that are very competitive, and to go for the book contract. We use part of our time for what Matt deemed “professionalism,” which has been exceedingly helpful as we progress toward tenure and promotion and for many of us, this is the only place we receive this kind of support and feedback related to our professional growth. Although our relationship is collegial, we are also friends and share life’s joys and sorrows.

We know each other so well that many of us have commented that we “hear” the unique voices of our FFPP colleagues as we write and comment on each others’ work. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the group has been to read my colleague’s revised articles, chapters, and fellowship applications, which is indicative of our mentor’s lasting influence. When Matt suggested submitting the same article or chapter twice to FFPP, I initially thought it would be a waste of the group’s valuable feedback; however, submitting one chapter and then resubmitting the revised version was the most productive use of my time as well as the group’s time. Many of us continued to submit and resubmit and several of us have commented that we have never felt more “heard” than when we read a revised chapter or article and see that our feedback was integrated into the revisions. The end result is a finely tuned piece of writing ready for peer review. I am giddy with anticipation to start reading the published versions of our articles and attend book launches in the not-too-distant-future.

As far as a publication update, I am planning to submit an article that began as a conference paper (International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Conference in London in July ’16), which was spurred by Ria’s comment to avoid using secondary sources (hence, I found myself in the Hollister Historical Society archives last April) by the end of this month. Our group has read several versions of it but I have to finally submit it and see what the reviewers say. Hopefully, I will have a citation soon:-)  I am still in communications with the senior editor at UC Press and promised her a manuscript by the end of August (!!!), which means I have A TON of writing to do this spring and summer. The group helped me with the Intro. Ch. 1, and Ch. 2 over the past year.

The “big” news is that I am a PI on two collaborative national grants:  an NSF grant ($300,000) and an AAC&U grant ($15,000).

Thanks again for helping us create the FFPP-group-that-won’t-stop!



Sarah L. Hoiland, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Hostos Community College

On Writing a Book Proposal

On Writing a Book Proposal

After our recent Professional Development sessions, we thought it would be great to follow up with some additional advice on writing a book proposal.  This interview with University of Illinois Press’ Dawn Durante on her best practices for book proposals and the scholarly publishing process, is another excellent resource.

As you know, Ilene Kalish (NYU Press) and Kimbery Guinta (Rutgers UP) shared some useful advice that you can use,  and former FFPP Fellow Keridian Chez generously shared her successful book proposal in this year’s Tool Kit.

We learned that its crucial to remember that your book project is different from your dissertation; that its important to showcase your clear articulation of project’s argument as it organizes the chapters in your book.  Your proposal should also include a discussion of your anticipated audience, recent and groundbreaking books that it engages, a table of contents (sometimes with BRIEF descriptions of each chapter’s argument), your estimation of the book’s length (80-100K words), and sample chapters.

Kim Guinta from Rutgers reminded us that sometimes a proposal gets rejected because the project is not a good fit for a particular press.  She advised that if you are unsure which presses might be a good fit for your manuscript, you should peruse the titles on your book shelf–whose is publishing the books you engage in your research?

One obvious and important point the editors reminded us is that you should take care to personalize your proposal and your query:  Be sure to include specifics from the press you correspond with.  If you are writing NYU Press, for instance, include references to titles published by NYU.  Explain for instance, why is NYU a good fit for your project.  And, if you chose to send multiple queries at the same time, it is ethical to disclose this detail in all of your correspondences.

On “Surviving” Rejection

As a mentor for the Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP) for the third year now, one of the recurring themes that keeps coming up in my groups is how to handle rejection. And although by “rejection” we may mean different things, the underlying question that our colleagues often ask is how to deal with rejection without taking it personally and in a non-emotional, objective way — so they can tackle whatever changes need to be made to their written pieces and move on.

The meritocratic ethos of the academic system makes us believe that if we work hard enough, play by the rules and do what we are asked, our lofty commitment (and sacrifices) to scholarly excellence will be acknowledged and, consequently, our jobs will be secured and the desired funding awarded. Unfortunately, that is no longer how academia works: the ongoing cuts to federal grants and the increasing pressure to publish — along with the backlash in the academic market — means that the scholarly cake has become smaller, while the number of those hungry for a piece of it keeps getting larger. Grant agencies and reputable publications are receiving many more submissions than they can possibly fund. Journals like “Nature,” as an example, currently reject more than 90% of submissions.

Not surprisingly, being rejected has many concrete effects in people’s lives and often feels deeply personal. To put it simply: Rejections sting and are either openly or secretly painful to many of us. And in my experience you can’t deal with rejection by just repeating the mantra “it’s not personal” over and over again. Indeed, quite the opposite is true: rejection feels personal because its effects can be devastating to one’s future career. After months of working hard on a grant application, a letter of rejection may lead to a frenzied panic — this may be the case for assistant professors going up for tenure as well as for senior colleagues who are counting on key external funding that will allow them to keep their laboratories and postdoctoral mentees afloat. Rejection is personal because being denied a fellowship leave may mean not being able to travel overseas to collect the precious archival data required to finish a book manuscript, just in time for the tenure application. Or it may mean not getting the invaluable release time that could lead to finishing a competitive grant before its deadline. Rejection is personal because all those weeks and months we spent working on a long project — often in isolation— meant taking time away from our families and kids, our friends and hobbies. And rejection is personal because, either openly or secretly, our academic egos are supported by the principle that our core self-worth is intrinsically dependent on the acceptance of our peers.

At the FFPP, we talk about learning how to perfect the scholarly craft of handling rejection, but we also open up about how rejection aches and how important it is to allow ourselves time to grieve and share our frustration, and get encouragement from people we trust. To that end, we are working on building a network of peer reviewers that will collectively contribute to creating a healthy community of scholars. We aim at developing strategies to enrich our intellectual and emotional lives with a view towards welcoming rejection letters as “just another day on the job” that will eventually lead to our articles and grant proposals being accepted — without hurting ourselves emotionally along the way. In fact, it is not just by learning to separate our academic work from our personal selves that we will become stronger fighters against the perils of academic rejection. It is by enriching our lives with “intellectual soul mates,” within safe and enriching spaces, that the pains of rejection are eventually turned into success.


What would be lost?

In my FFPP group, we often discuss the importance of discovering the “core” of your work–its main point–which can sometimes be hard to see after you’ve worked on a project for a long time.

There are several exercises that you can do to help identify the core of your work; one of them is developing the classic “elevator pitch.”

A couple of years ago I saw a colleague of mine ask a doctoral candidate: “if you did not complete your scholarship, what would the world lose?  What would your discipline or field lose?”

This is an amazing prompt, I think–and one that helps us see the importance of our work–and its urgency and significance.


–Carrie Hintz

On Distraction and Tomatoes

On Distraction and Tomatoes

I’m Carrie Hintz, one of the FFPP mentors; this is my second year working with the program.  I’m excited to be beginning our work in earnest this coming Friday.

I enjoyed Katherine Chen’s remarks about collaborative learning communities–and how FFPP worked for her in her early years at CUNY.  For more on writing groups–and perhaps some advice on sustaining your writing beyond FFPP–check out this practical and inspiring advice column by political theorist Claire Curtis, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Rules of Writing Group.”  Claire echoes a number of Katherine’s points and talks in very interesting ways about being held accountable by your writing group.

Today I wanted to write about distraction and carving out writing time.  A number of my colleagues, all at different stages of their careers, have been talking to me about how distracted (and of course distressed) they are by the news: glued to their Twitter feed, blown off course whenever an update comes in from the New York Times, endlessly sidetracked by stories and links popping up on their Facebook feed.  No wonder we are all feeling unable to concentrate; it feels increasingly urgent to be vigilant about what is going on at both national and local levels.  But our scholarship also calls us, and it too is urgent.

Even in happier times, it can be challenging to carve out time for your scholarship.  Many colleagues new to the profession tell me that they rely on stretches of time (holidays, mostly) where they can get some traction on their work.  Such open stretches of time are invaluable, and to be treasured, but the key to long term survival in the profession, I think, lies more in the ability to carve out smaller portions of time to write–and to not be pulled off track by email, class prep, housework, or any number of interpersonal obligations.

To do this—to seize those small increments of time–I have found the Pomodoro method invaluable.  In the Pomodoro method, you set either a kitchen timer (like one of the tomato-shaped ones that the method is named after) or a digital timer for 25 minutes, then have a break of 5 minutes, followed again by 25 minutes of work.  And so on. A video explaining the method can be found here.  You can get Pomodoro apps for your phone, tablet or laptop as well.

When I was first introduced to the Pomodoro technique, I was not sure it would work for me–but it has helped me with the following:

  1.  Conceiving of my writing as taking place in small increments of time rather than enormous, unbroken blocks of time–and that progress is absolutely possible within those smaller blocks.
  2. Resisting distractions for those 25 minute blocks of time–especially the urge to check email or the news. Often this resistance to distraction takes place 15 or 20 minutes into the writing session, where I can tell myself “only 5 or 10 minutes to go,” so no interruptions allowed.
  3. Taking regular breaks, which clears the mind and feels healthier physically and mentally.

I also find that the method works well if I am writing for long stretches and trying to “accumulate” several Pomodoros–but it works  equally well when I have a day with several meetings and classes–because maybe I can fit in one “pomodoro” writing session, which is better than nothing and makes the next day’s work easier.  This may not be the method for you, but I would certainly recommend it as one way to deal (in part) with these distracting times and get some writing done!





writing groups as collaborative communities

I’m Katherine K. Chen. To kick off the 2017 spring semester’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP) blog series, I briefly reflect on CUNY, the academic profession, and how writing communities can support and enhance scholarship.

First, a little about myself: I am one of the newest FFPP mentors, and I am also a FFPP alum-turned-mentor (colleague Stephen Steinberg was my mentor!).  Using ethnographic and other qualitative methods, I study how organizations develop.  I joined The City College of New York in 2008, so I am now approaching almost a decade at CUNY.

As some of you know, CUNY is a higher education institution with an unusual structure, consisting of the Graduate Center, where most of its PhD granting programs are concentrated, senior colleges that offer bachelors and masters, and community colleges that offer associate degrees.  Moreover, CUNY has a long legacy of propelling first-time, minority college-goers into the middle class and beyond.  Despite a crushing burden of working low-wage, dead-end jobs, caring for sick relatives, and intermittent homelessness in a high cost of living city, CUNY undergraduate students persevere in their belief that education matters. Working at the frontlines with CUNY students are CUNY instructors who are vibrant and accomplished. Besides publishing in the expected peer-reviewed venues, some also produce artwork, novels, and opinion pieces in widely read venues.

It’s difficult not to be inspired by the intellectual ferment of CUNY and the surrounding New York City. Nonetheless, universities and academic professions in general face increasing uncertainties as state support for higher education declines.   Meanwhile, neoliberal pressures are increasing, with demands that faculty demonstrate their market worthiness in numbers of students taught and graduated and funding awarded.  These pressures can make the university and academic profession feel alienating, particularly when the rewards structure is skewed.  Often, only one type of the work – publishing in peer-reviewed publications – is recognized in tenure and promotion while much of daily work – teaching students and undertaking service to maintain academic institutions and the profession – is uncounted and unrewarded.

It is easy to get lost when journeying in this milieu.  In particular, navigating the writing and publishing can involve taking a hike into the unknown. While maps exist, the details are often unmarked, requiring local knowledge and constant experimentation. Sometimes a more experienced guide may lead, or companions may join, making the journey lighter (or heavier).  While writing coaches and guides to publishing offer some assistance (my favorites of the latter include Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks and William Germano’s Getting It Published), people can more fully realize their potential when immersed in an active, supportive community.

Writing groups such as FFPP, where members meet regularly to give feedback on circulated work, offer an oasis of support, collegiality, and generativity.  For me, participating in FFPP and other writing groups has been crucial to advancing my scholarly development.  Such groups have facilitated difficult decisions to, for example, reframe manuscripts and cut out excess material; these gatherings have helped interpret cryptic reviewer comments and modeled potential responses to reviewers’ suggestions.  Moreover, reading other scholars’ works in progress helps us understand common writing and conceptual issues – it is much easier to identify problems and potential solutions in other people’s manuscripts!   Finally, it’s heady to be on the cutting edge of manuscripts that are on the verge of reaching a wider audience, especially given how long it takes for manuscripts to wend their way through the publication process.

With these thoughts in mind, I look forward to facilitating fellow FFPPers’ journey and learning from everyone’s work in the months ahead.  Welcome to spring 2o17!



Queer Methods Launches 12/8/16

Queer Methods Launches 12/8/16

Announcing the publication of Queer Methods, a special issue of WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, coedited by FFPP Mentor and former Fellow Matt Brim (College of Staten Island).



Queer Methods presents pioneering feminist work on queer research practices across the disciplines and proudly features new poetry and prose selections by cutting-edge writers. WSQ is published by the Feminist Press at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


Please join WSQ and the Feminist Press for the launch event of Queer Methods on Thursday, December 8th from 7:00-8:30pm at the Bureau of General Services–Queer Division, an independent queer cultural center, bookstore, and event space located in Room 210 of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street (between 7th Avenue & Greenwich Avenue) in Manhattan.