It's Not Midcareer Malaise: Strategies for the Second Book and Beyond

AHA Session 159
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Crystal Room (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
William Cronon, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Mark Philip Bradley, University of Chicago
Emily Conroy-Krutz, Jessica Lepler, Michigan State University, University of New Hampshire
Ann Fabian, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Deborah Gershenowitz, Susan Ferber, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press

Session Abstract

Recent years have seen a flurry of concern about midcareer malaise, or the post-tenure slump. After years spent writing dissertations, surviving the job market, turning dissertations into first books, and achieving tenure, many promising scholars struggle with the transition to the second book. There are many dimensions to this problem. Some of them are creative and scholarly issues: they wonder if it makes sense to try something entirely new, or to continue a research trajectory clearly laid out in their first project. Some of them are structural issues: they must search for research support at the same time as their teaching and service obligations increase. For some, these difficulties are further compounded by the obligations of family and child rearing that can make residential fellowships or long-term travel challenging. All of this can result in promising scholars stalling at the associate level. This is a problem, but it is one that many organizations and individuals are working to address. This roundtable brings together editors, writers, and administrators to discuss midcareer malaise and what individuals and scholarly organizations can do about it.

Ferber and Gershenowitz will approach these questions as editors who have guided and supported authors through the process of writing second books. They will address how to pitch and develop projects with editors before the manuscripts are written; how to think about model books; how to navigate drafting the manuscript without the safety net of a dissertation committee and ultimately produce personally and professionally satisfying second books. Conroy-Krutz and Lepler, both currently working on their second books, wanted more support and reached out to the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. The result was the SHEAR Second-Book Writers’ Workshop, a scholarly society’s response to the needs of its membership for more support at this stage in their careers. Its goals were to provide both practical advice and the motivation that comes from writing for and with your peers. In its first year, thirty-six participants from four countries, three continents, nineteen states, and Washington, D.C. workshopped works in progress. The workshop’s success is replicable in other organizations, and Conroy-Krutz and Lepler will describe their motivations, process, and feedback. Bradley and Fabian will speak not only as successful academics and writers who have gone through this process themselves, but as administrators with insights about institutional issues for midcareer scholars especially around the particular challenges for women and underrepresented minority faculty. Together the panelists in this roundtable intend to share their institutional and personal strategies for succeeding at the second book.

See more of: AHA Sessions