Dr. Sean Ruday has all the makings of an entrepreneur, with one notable exception—he’s more interested in generating ideas than profits.
His latest niche venture? A scholarly journal on writing instruction that combines a research focus with practical advice for teachers. He couldn’t find such a publication when he recently had an article to submit, so he decided to fill the void.
"I’ve always been an intrepid spirit. I’ve always been one to start something," said Ruday, an English professor at Longwood University. "I decided to write my first book after not seeing any books that addressed a particular topic. I’ve always liked the Toni Morrison quote, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’"
So, in addition to being a college professor, author of textbooks and co-president of a national professional organization, Ruday is now the editor of the Journal of Literacy Innovation. The inaugural issue of the twice-yearly, peer-reviewed online journal, which will focus on K-12 reading and writing, is scheduled for April 2016. The journal will be available for free on its website; free electronic copies will be emailed to subscribers.
"This has taken a fair amount of time, but the startup phase is just about done," said Ruday, who has publicized the journal through his professional Twitter account and the National Council of Teachers of English, designed the website, recruited peer reviewers and solicited manuscripts.
"I’ve received three submissions, which is a good number so far, and have spoken with others who plan to submit. It’s still early," he said.
Ruday also is pleased to have reached his goal of recruiting 10 reviewers, who provide what he called "external anonymous feedback." As is typical of journal editors, he will screen manuscripts, then send them to reviewers for their recommendations. The final verdict is his: accept, reject or request revisions from the author.
"The big unknown now is how many high-quality manuscripts I’ll get and whether they’ll be aligned with the focus of the journal," he said.
Ruday is on familiar ground. For five years, he has been a reviewer for The Reading Teacher, a professional journal, and last year he joined the publication’s editorial board.
"The experience of being a reviewer kind of gave me the background knowledge of how journals work, which has prepared me for this," he said. "It’s like being an assistant coach before being a head coach."
Ruday already had experience in designing websites as well, having created a professional website for himself as well as a site for the Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar, of which he is co-president.
Ruday’s decision to start his own journal was prompted by what he viewed as a vacuum in literacy education journals.
"I found that some were research-focused but not applicable to teachers, while others were practitioner-focused but didn’t contain enough research. I wanted one that would combine these two focuses," he said.
"The idea for the journal also came from the thinking I want my students to do. I want them to know both the ‘how,’ which is what the practitioner-focused journals do, and the ‘why,’ which is the focus of the research-based journals. I believe a journal with this focus will be of interest to teachers and teacher-educators because of its practitioner-friendly ideas and its connections to research. Teachers need to understand both of these concepts to maximize their students’ successes. This journal gives them that information."
Ruday has published three textbooks on writing instruction. A fourth book is due out in September, and he recently signed a contract for a fifth book. Before joining the Longwood faculty, he taught English and language arts at schools in three states.
"This has been work, but it’s also been fun," said Ruday. "It’s exciting that you can contribute to your field with something that’s a little different from what’s out there. The opportunity to create a new resource is motivating."
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