1. Do you write with your legal name, or a pen name? Why/why not? Have you ever considered creating a pen name?
I write under my real name. I’m a professional & technical writing specialist, so most of my writing is written for a particular industry/workplace purpose and audience. I might, for example, write a white paper suggesting that local restaurants use my client’s inventory software to solve their inventory problems. As you can imagine, using anything but your real name in these workplace situations could be quite the legal disaster.
That said, I do publish under a variation of my name: J. A. Rice. I use this variation because there’s another Jeff Rice who studies and writes about what I do. He also went to the same PhD program as I did. And he teaches at UK. Confused yet? I know I am.
2. Where/how did you study writing?
I received my BA (x2) in English and Philosophy at The Ohio State University, my MA in English at the University of Vermont, and my PhD in Professional & Technical Writing and New Media Studies at the University of Florida.
3. What all have you had published?
Not counting Internet publications, white papers, or formal reports, I’ve published a handful of articles on the philosophical and rhetorical relationships between new media technology, globalization, and workplace writing. I most recently published Beyond Postprocess, a co-edited collection that reevaluates what it means to write and to study writing in the digital age.
I had some fiction published a while back, but let’s forget about that. It’s not a productive area of discussion.
4. What’s your favorite piece of writing that you’ve created?
Well, that last sentence wasn’t too shabby.
5. Tell us a little about the publication process.
Industry and workplace writing varies by document, purpose, and culture. Technical documents like manuals or webpages are usually written and published in house, so they could take days or weeks to produce. It really depends on what the organization wants to accomplish (and how big & rich they are).
Academic writing—the obverse underside of professional & technical writing—can take years. For article and book publications, you usually first submit your essay or manuscript to a journal/press editor. They read it, and if they believe it has an audience, send it out to a blind peer review (a panel of other academics who read, comment, and judge your submission as acceptable, in need of serious revision, or unacceptable). Depending on what peer reviewers said, the editor contacts you and gives you a deadline to resubmit your work (obviously, if the peer reviewers judged your work as unacceptable, you don’t resubmit anything). Once you resubmit your essay or manuscript, the editor either sends it out again for further peer review or reviews it him/herself. With luck, the editor will accept your work and explain the journal’s/press’s publishing procedures. It’s a long, stressful, and sometimes demoralizing process.
6. What advice would you give to beginning writers?
1. Read widely but discriminately. Read different kinds of texts—novels, poems, history, philosophy, rhetoric, magazines, blogs, zines, wikis, text messages, reports, manuals, etc.—and really look at how they approach, represent, and organize their subject matter. If, for example, you read a biography for informational purposes, you might want to pay particular attention to how the author contextualizes their subject, transitions from topic to topic, and even how they use a certain writing style to relate that information. In other words, the more purposeful your reading habits, the more you’ll notice how words impact and shape their subject matter.
2. Recognize that writing is a craft. Despite our cultural stereotypes, good writing is less a product of solitary genius than it is a testament to tenacity. Successful writers spend a lot of time crafting, reworking, and revising paragraphs and sentences (or stanzas, lines, etc.), so don’t get discouraged if your report or treatise doesn’t sound like you want it to. Keep crafting your writing/writing style and you’ll eventually get something you like.
7. Why did you start writing?
Because “Jedi Knight” isn’t a real job—yet.
8. Tell us a little about your writing process.
I’m one of those “write every day” people, so I try to write about 150-300 words every day. Usually, I begin an outline with some key ideas and just ramble or brainstorm about what I want to say. Once I’ve gotten a clear picture of where I want to go, I start writing from the outline—I literally write from the first Roman numeral to the last. In the final stages of my writing, I start editing for style and logic. It’s a pretty basic and traditional way of writing, but it helps make larger projects (reports, articles, books, etc.) seem more manageable.
9. What is your favorite book/author?
I’m not sure if I have any favorite books or authors, but certain writers have influenced the way I look at and practice writing. Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida really helped me understand how writing does more than merely communicate information or express thoughts. Likewise, I’d say that William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel Neuromancer influenced how I envision the relationship(s) between writing and technology.