Jenn: How does one write an INTERESTING and NOVEL textbook?
I’ve just spent 36 nearly consecutive hours writing two long and technical chapters on volcanoes. I’m almost happy with them, though I’d like to add another “rough” to my earlier statement that I’m writing rough rough drafts. There’s so much more to do, but I really think this schedule thing works for me where I write on each topic the day(s) after I lecture. The irony was that as I wrote about convulsing underground magma chambers spewing out volumes of lava and ash while I cared for my mostly sleeping daughter who was afflicted with a nasty stomach virus. I typed frantically through the night, aided by six cups of coffee, hoping to finish before I caught the bug. A film in class on Tues and thus a respite from this project. Tsunamis on Friday, I’ll spend the weekend writing up that chapter (should be simple and straightforward) and then I’ll go back and start polishing these first nine chapters with a goal to get them all to my editor by 3/10.
My reward, the thing that keeps me going, is this blog and reading what you all have written – the rat pellet treat reward of writing is logging on. I hope all of you are finding this site as motivating as I am, though I feel like an oddball because I’m not taking creativity to the heights that all of you are. I mean, how creative can you be in an introductory science textbook? How many ways can you present lava chemistry?
I’d LOVE to hear if anyone has any ideas on this. I have four would-be competitors, and my doctoral advisor has told me I can make this work only if I have a new, novel approach. I would like to lean towards yellow journalism and sensationalism, but my peers and reviewers are staid old white males who have dogmatic and conservative ideas on the way things should be. I have ideas on writing an interest box in each chapter on Hollywood films (Twister, Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow) that deal with each subject and tease out fact from fiction, but I dont’ know a thing about getting copyrights to movie posters or images, and I’m guessing I don’t *want* to know what’s involved.
The textbook is entitled Natural Disasters and Catastrophes. I once reviewed a Physical Geology textbook (holy market saturation, batman) and the author purported to present the material in a new, applied approach. I blasted him by saying essentially, “Guess what? You didn’t.” Payback time? I also want to, as much as possible, make the students feel like they are living through each catastrophe. Instead of reading, “Ms. Maria Ruiz awoke at 8:32 AM on May 12, 1981 and smelled sulphur,” I want to write, “You’re laying in your bed, and shortly before your alarm is due to go off, you start having this dream you are being choked. You wake up and realize the air is filled with a noxious odor…” I don’t know how that is going to work? Any ideas would be MUCH MUCH appreciated.