AWS founder Laura Holliday here to tell you how we got started.
I’m a UC–Santa Barbara English and Women’s Studies PhD who started on the tenure track and then left academia in 2007 to work for myself.
(Why? Probably what amounts to the usual reasons, chief among them that I had a kid [and, before that, a rough pregnancy]; and my institution did some innovative things but then seemed to be regressing, and I was disheartened about it and other places.)
I started Doc Holliday Wordsmithing, and over the past 10 years I’ve worked on supporting research efforts at an institute for women’s health, consulted on curriculum redesign for a nonprofit professional-development organization, and produced and edited content for a mobile app aimed at improving retention among first-gen college students.
Oh—and I’ve also edited a bunch of academic books. And articles, tenure packages, grant proposals, you name it. But mostly books. That’s been my main work for a decade.
So one day I was talking to my co-conspirator, Berkeley Goodloe, about one of my frustrations in being an academic editor, which is that I love helping people move forward on their projects, but in some ways the people who would most benefit from the kind of support I can provide are, by definition, not those who tend to be my clients.
By the time most academics look for an editor, they already have a manuscript and, in many cases, a publisher. They’ve overcome discouragement, imposter syndrome, competing demands on their time, the obscurity of info about what they actually need to do, and all of the other barriers. But the problem with bringing in support at an earlier stage in the process is that it gets expensive to pay for all that 1:1 attention.
I keep thinking, I told Berkeley, about ways to provide that support in ways that combine 1:1 work when it’s needed with a variety of other kinds of help, like small-group advising, mentoring sessions, office hours, facilitated peer mentoring, writing groups and group writing, and so forth.
I will totally help you make that happen, he said.