August 2013
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Christina Cavage, MWIS co-chair, Savannah, Georgia, USA

The TESOL 2013 MWIS academic session in Dallas, “A Balancing Act: Material Writers, Publishers, Classroom Teachers and Researchers,” provided great insights on where publishing has been and where it is going. Our panelists represented a diverse group of authors, teachers, and publishers.

The session began with renowned author, editor, and teacher Irene Schoenberg, giving an overview of how publishing has changed since what Ms. Schoenberg called “the halcyon days of publishing.” She spoke on what a materials writer has to balance, from providing a mix of engaging topics to meeting the needs and interests of learners. She also recounted her experiences working with different editors, and reviewed a questionnaire she had sent to developmental editors on their ideas about their needs. According to Ms. Schoenberg, it was quite telling that editors are looking for those with fresh ideas who can present them in new ways and are flexible. Ms. Schoenberg offered potential authors some great reading materials, and provided both novice and experienced authors with some great suggestions moving forward.

Our second panelist, Keith Folse, is no stranger to publishing. He started off by telling us his personal story. Like many materials writers, his writing career grew out of his desire to create accessible materials for his students. His first book was a result of handouts he created for a class. Keith strongly stressed the importance of knowing your audience and working with the end goal of meeting their needs.

Pierre MontaganoAssociate Director of Product Marketing at Cambridge University Press, has worked in publishing for more than 20 years and provided the audience with a critical piece of the puzzle in a humorous way. He focused on how publishing is really changing. He spoke on the transformation to digital: the introduction of new technologies and their effect on the author and texts today. He also brought a fresh perspective on market research and how it informs publishers on new products.

Not only did the next panelist, Debbie Sistino, editor at Pearson ELT, echo Mr. Montagno’s sentiments on how market research drives decision-making, she also shed light on the often complicated relationship between an editor and a writer. In addition, Ms. Sistino shared that writers, while recruited for their talents or fresh ideas, in the end, must be able to work within the prescribed templates for a project.

The last of the dynamic panelists was Nick Robinson. Nick is founder of Nick Robinson, ELT Author Representation, a company that matches writers with publishers. As a former teacher, writer, and editor, Nick definitely brought a wide range of perspectives to the table. Novice and experienced materials writers alike listened intently as Nick stated that publishing companies today are looking for more than strong writing skills. Like Ms. Schoenberg, he mentioned flexibility, and added that content creators today need to be willing to travel, work with digital technologies, and market themselves and their products.

This lively, interactive session generated great feedback. There was plenty of time left for questions, and a variety of questions were asked. Some were as simple as “Where should I send my manuscript ?” and others required more complex responses, such as “ What are the best tactics in negotiating a contract?” This last question created a lot of discussion, and really became the catalyst for the planning of our next academic session at TESOL 2014!

Christina Cavage is the current MWIS co-chair and an ESL educator, teacher trainer, and writer in Savannah, Georgia, USA.

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Curious about the future of interactive authoring? Take a look at this article about Inkling or visit the Inkling Habitat website.

Writing for the Educational Market features resources for freelance writing in the education market.

Mark Your Calendar
Sept: T&AA Webinar: Pushing Your Writing, Raising Your Profile 17/9/13; 4-5 ET
Dec: Deadline for MWIS Newsletter Articles

Feb: MWIS Newsletter
March: TESOL 2014, Portland (26-29 March)