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.