Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog

I recently contemplated starting a Science blog. The aim of that blog would be to take cutting edge research from the bench and make it accessible to the lay person. As with all new things, I began doing what I do best: research. I read other science blogs, read commentaries, and researched the impact of science blogs on Science and careers. That's when I stumbled across this article in Science Magazine: Science Blogging and Tenure. The article discussed the pros and cons of science blogs. In some cases it can further a scientist’s career. In other cases it can be seen as a liability, time away from the bench that doesn’t impact current scientific research. The article went on to cite Thomas Levenson, Program Head and Director of the Graduate Program at MIT who gave the advice: “Don’t be stupid….For those of us without a permanent position, this may be viewed unkindly by our current or future employers.”

Well, I guess I am one of those, and while my liability or asset (the jury’s still out on that) is not science blogging, it is fiction writing. When I contemplated publishing my novels, I considered the impact on my career as a scientist. I chose a demi-pseudonym. Why? I needed to keep my professional life and my writing life separate. I wanted people who googled me in the capacity of my daytime profession to find information relating to my contribution to science. And when people googled the novelist Jewel Amethyst, I wanted them to find info pertaining to my work as an author. To me it was simple. At least for a while…

Now I’m at a crossroads. I’m transitioning. I’ve updated my CV, made sure my digital footprint was squeaky clean, requested the old transcripts, but then the burning question: should I include my works of fiction on my CV. It is an accomplishment isn’t it? Some folks have suggested I do, others have warned against it. As in the case of Science blogging, it could be taken two ways. Either the prospective employers view it as an asset, an accomplishment that sets me apart from the sea of aspiring authors: I’m a published author. Or they can see it as a liability; time spent away from science. One question I get asked anytime any one discovers that I’m a published author is, “When do you find time to write?” It is a legitimate question. Would prospective employers see my writing as an impediment to important scientific research? (Before you say “Duh” remember science is not a 9 to 5 job).

So while the title of this post is “To blog or not to blog”, that is not really the question I am asking. I’ve already decided that creating a science blog will depend on the demands on my time. The question I’m asking is, “Should I include my fiction writing achievements on my CV (resume)?

I really would like to know what you readers think.


G said...

Pretty bad (or good, depending on how you want to look at) dilemma to have.

Personally, I would want to list my writing achievements on my resume.

But I can definitely see how in your particular profession, prospecive employers would think twice because your fiction writing achievements aren't related to your current profession.

Pretty sad when prospective employers look at two equally qualified candidates and then shoots one down simply because that one isn't published in the "proper field".

Kind of a catch-22, don't you think?

You're published, which can put you heads above everyone else, yet you're not published in the "right" field.

Charles Gramlich said...

I actually don't include any of my fiction on my CV, although I include a number or nonfiction articles that I've written about writing and writerly topics, and I include both of my nonfiction books, even though one is focused mainly on writing fiction.

However, I used the same name on both my fiction and nonfiction, and for my career. Thus, if a prospective employer googled me they'd find much more about my fiction than they would my nonfiction.

It is potentially a problem. Although I had published "more" articles than the vast majority of my colleagues when I first came up for promotion, most of those were not specifically journal articles and I think they worked against my promotion, which was delayed two years in a row.

One thing you can do, of course, which I have done, is to select a version of your vita to reflect the face you want to show to any one particular employer. The full version could have your fiction on it, while a selected version chosen for a particular target audience might not.

Liane Spicer said...

I'd want to keep the two faces of my writing entirely separate because of the bias in academia against genre fiction, especially romance.

Charles' comment is right on target. Last year I applied to an MFA program in Creative Writing. I was warned by colleagues that I should refrain from including my genre work in the writing samples I sent in, but I did mention my publishing credits in the application. I was not selected, and although the genre fiction might have had nothing to do with that, I don't think it helped one iota.

Jewel Amethyst said...

G it is indeed a catch 22. I am published in my field, but I think if I was an employer, I'd count my other field of work as evidence of a well rounded individual, and hence an asset.

Unfortunately, the more educated you become, the more specialized you become and any diviation could be seen negatively. Especially when that deviation is romance writing, seen by many as insignificant, yet the most widely read genre.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles and Liane, thanks for the advice. I have been trying to tailor my CV to the institutions that I applied to reflect what I want to emphasize.

I will think twice about including my fiction credits other than to mention published fiction author. Even that I may reconsider.