Monday, March 17, 2008

NaNoWriMo? NoMo!

I’ve attempted and won National Novel Writing Month for the past three years, but I’m afraid the streak has come to an end with 2007. As it happens, I will be writing—probably a lot—in November 2008, but it will be on a statistics book rather than a new zombie novel.

About a year and a half ago I got a cryptic e-mail from Ralph, who supervised my doctoral dissertation in 1981-1982. As a bit of background, my degree is nominally in social psychology, but my dissertation research was in statistics, on “The Finite-Sample Properties of Analysis of Covariance Tests under the Multiple Design Multivariate Linear Model.” I was planning to do some re-training and start a career in stat when I met a nuclear physicist in the laundromat. Wedding bells, maternity clothes, fast forward 23 years and, well, any notion of statistics had fallen by the wayside. My business card does say “data analysis,” but what I get hired to do around here is pretty pedestrian, descriptive stuff. I sometimes feel as if I’ve forgotten more than I once knew about real, inferential statistics.

Anyway, Ralph’s e-mail simply said “Call me” and provided a cell phone number. I called him, and he asked me if I wanted to write a book with him on an area of statistics that didn’t really exist in significant form when I was in school. He said that he’d had a publisher after him for about five years to do the book, but that he simply didn’t have the time to write it. Would I write it with him? He’d handle the statistics part; I’d handle the verbiage. I agreed to think about it, and we’ve been going back and forth on various things since then, including formulating an outline (table of contents, really) and working up the first two chapters.

Last week, we sat down with the third author (whom I’d never met but with whom Ralph has collaborated in the past) and had a rollicking good discussion of the project. We also met with publishing reps who gave us various forms to complete but who also told us they’d like to have the first five chapters by July in order to get some teaser stuff ready for a meeting in August. They also discussed when they’d like to see the book come out, which will pretty much mean a chapter a month for the next year and a half.

There’s no signed contract, but this somewhat nebulous “yeah, I might be writing a stat book” project seems to have become very real very fast. I shall miss National Novel Writing Month, but see no way this side of hades or heaven to think I could work a 50,000 word novel in while writing something of this magnitude. I shall endeavor, however, to work a zombie into an example somewhere in homage to the fourth zombie novel I otherwise would have written come November 2008.


Debi said...

I know this has been in the works for a while, but wow...CONGRATS! Even if you haven't quite signed on the dotted line yet, it must feel pretty damn exciting to really be getting under way here, huh? Will we get an autographed copy? Of course, I won't understand a word in it :) Heck, I was lost by the third word of your dissertation title!

It will be interesting to hear how things progress and what it's like collaborating with others. Hope you have a little time left for blogging! Frankly, the whole process fascinates me. Of course, for me it's just a bystander's curiosity, but I'll bet Rich will be interested to hear how it's going, too. He's kicked around the idea of writing a textbook.

By the way, I loved your comment about us being sisters in a past life. I started thinking about how cool it would be to be your sister. But then I decided that maybe being "cousins" is better. If you were my big sister I would have always been jealous because you were the pretty one AND the smart one. So I would have spent my life trying to be just like you, and would have ultimately ended up hating you :)

Jean said...


Since I only have one brother and always wanted a sister (sometimes instead of and other times in addition to the brother), the idea of sister rivalry is new to me. But who's to say I'd be the prettier or smarter? Better with a sword, maybe, but I'm not sure about the rest.

Not that I'm huge on astrology, but I noticed on your profile that you're a Pisces, right? Most of my close female friends are Pisces or Leo. Go figure.