creative commons photo by Hans Thijs

We hope TSP’s Reading List is both an informative source for cutting-edge research and an aid in strutting your eminently informed stuff at fancy cocktail parties and on The Twitter. We’ve experimented with different writing models, but these days we’re producing reading list items collectively. It turns out to be a lot of fun to go around the room and “pitch” the best and/or coolest thing we’ve read in the past month.

I’m sometimes asked how we find the good stuff to write about. Here’s a little backstage info on how the (vegan andouille) sausage is made. We first divvied our grad student board into two teams (Team Chris and Team That Other Guy), with each board member responsible for pitching three articles per month. One is supposed to come from a mainstream sociology journal, one from the student’s specialty area, and one can be a rip-roaring wild card. We then engage in a good-natured throwdown, debating whether the article tells us anything we didn’t already know, whether the evidence is really there to support its conclusions, and whether we can adequately convey the piece to non-specialists and non-academics. After the pitch session, we look at how all the articles fit together and pick one (or more) for each person to write up.

Folks then present their drafts at the next meeting, where we edit them live and on-screen. This would be a daunting process if our grad board members weren’t such confident and creative writers. After we all suggest a few clearly inappropriate but wickedly funny titles, each writer polishes up their piece and sends it off to Letta Page for a final edit. We also write up quicker short-form reading list items without much editing, just to spread the word about work we find exciting, important, or engaging in some way.

You can see the result of this process in Sarah Shannon’s Ain’t to Posh to Push (on Louise Roth and Megan Henley’s Social Problems article on C-sections) or Stephen Suh’s Talking Basketball (on Kathleen Yep’s Ethnic & Racial Studies piece on race, hoops, and history) or the other items we’ve uploaded recently. While the individual authors deserve great credit, I’m really glad it is a collective process. We’ve tried to do this individually, with each person simply preparing their items without collective discussion, but this process wasn’t nearly as much fun as kicking ideas around over a bowl of Letta’s (vegan andouille) chili. Here’s hoping that the resulting items are as rich and tasty as the chili.