Routledge is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Sally Campbell Galman following the publication of her latest title Naptime at the O.K. Corral- her second title following her successful title The Good, the Bad, and the Data!
Read our Q&A interview with Sally, where she discusses what inspired her to write her books, her career as a professor and who inspired her work!
About the book and the subject area
Congratulations on the recent publication of your book, Naptime at the O.K. Corral, which follows your previous title The Good, the Bad, and the Data.What do you want your audience to take away from both books?
Thanks! I am so excited to see this new book in print. First and foremost, I want my readers to develop a solid foundation in how to do ethnographic research with children—that’s fairly obvious—that they can then build upon with additional reading and practice. When I was in graduate school and then as a junior faculty member, I found that it was hard to find texts that really rolled up their sleeves and showed the everyday practicalities of how to do things without ‘dumbing down’ or oversimplifying what is really a craft researchers develop and refine over a lifetime; Of course there were so many beautiful, rich books about method but as a new scholar I really needed just a foundation, a place to hang my new ideas, and to think about what was what. Secondly, I want readers to see that there is joy, and quite a few laughs, in this work. I have a great time doing what I do and I want them to do so as well. Finally (and perhaps this is a tall order) I want people who work in comics and graphic novels and arts-based work to see other people writing this way, and to feel supported and legitimated and represented when they see books like this one on the shelves and being taught in their graduate seminars.
What makes both your books Naptime at the O.K. Corral and The Good, the Bad, and the Data stand out from its competitors?
Well, I don’t think about the academic book market as a realm of competition, per se. In the world of ideas, we don’t compete as much as we hold each other up. So, while on one hand I don’t think there is anyone out there doing what I do with the Shane books—at the risk of being quite immodest I would say there isn’t anyone out there who is as funny—there are lots of other people writing books and communicating their own ideas in ways I could never “compete” with. Their ideas inform mine, and that of students, and our ways of thinking cyclically engage one another. That said, if you want to learn really solid ethnographic method whilst laughing like a drain over pictures of giant headlice, you pretty much only have one author to turn to—and that’s me.
How different was it writing the second book Naptime at the O.K. Corral compared to the first The Good, the Bad, and the Data?
Naptime builds on the storyline of the previous book—with the protagonist embarking on a new adventure—so you can follow all the Shane books like a bit of a telenovela if you want! However, this book was infinitely more fun, and also more challenging, to write. It was a methods text just like the previous one, but it also was relatively content heavy, and working out how to present a text as a journey, and an exercise in learning with so many moving pieces, while still being really funny, really tested me as an author, an artist, a storyteller and also as a teacher. This book was like a big puzzle in that regard. I’m very proud of the final product and can say that it is, hands down, the best work I have produced in 20 years as an artist and scholar.
Did you learn anything to improve your process from the first time?
In addition to the content synthesis and pedagogical dimensions I described earlier, this book represents a leap forward in my craft as an artist. The previous book was written using antique technology: paper, pencils and erasers. This new book was written using tablet technology and I feel like the result is so much cleaner, clearer and visually pleasing. One of my doctoral students told me that she likes to use my books as colouring books—she colours in the pages as she goes—and I kept that in mind as I worked on this one; I wanted it to be enjoyable in that way.
What is your academic background?
I’m Professor of Child and Family Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst at the moment. I completed my PhD at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and before that I was lucky enough to attend both Grinnell College in Iowa and Punahou School in Honolulu, HI.
What is innovative about your research?
My research is innovative in that it is arts-based, like my comics, and in addition to publishing research articles I also show my visual arts work and contribute image-based scholarship in lots of different venues. It is also unusual in that I started out studying adults, but quickly became captivated by the little children that seemed to be hanging around with the adults, and became what I am today: an anthropologist of childhood. My research today focuses on arts-based work with transgender children and their families.
Who has influenced you the most?
There are so many people it’s hard to pick a few. I think as an artist Art Spiegelman was the person who taught me about the power of contiguous words and images when I first picked up MAUS when I was a teenager, and Alison Bechdel is the person who taught me to tell a ripping yarn, and to realize I could be funny but also painfully truthful and powerful with my “funny pictures.” She taught me to take myself seriously as an artist. Within the creative research world, I have lots of heroes but arguably Beth Graue, Allison James, David Lancy, Alma Gottlieb, Sara Delamont, Fred Erickson, Melissa Cahnmann-Taylor, Mathangi Subramanian, Lesley Bartlett and my PhD thesis chair Margaret LeCompte are up there at the very top of the list. These are the people whose work and energy have literally held me up.
What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?
Significant is a funny word, but I’ll give it a try. An artist friend of mine once said that the best thing about being an artist is having a life that’s all your own. I think my greatest achievement is that I’ve done sort of the scholarly version of that: I’ve carved out a place for myself, trusted myself, and made an academic life that is all my own. That isn’t to say that I don’t stand on the shoulders of giants or humbly rely on those who have gone before, but rather that I ignored the mean and well-meaning and small-minded people who told me all the things I couldn’t be if I wanted to be a “real” scholar. That was harder than it sounds. Then there was getting a Spencer Foundation grant to support my arts-based work with transgender children. That was probably just as big.
Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style?
Maybe this is too unusual, but when I am inking the pages of a book – so, when I have the whole thing written and sketched out and I am doing alllll that hand lettering and drawing endless squares and filling in all the shading and making it pretty—I can only work at a nice clip if I have a certain BBC mystery programme running in the background on repeat. I have the whole thing memorized now. I also hide my three daughters’ names-- a la Al Hirschfeld--in all of my books.
What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher in your field?
Trust yourself. Fake it if you have to. But trust that you can do something special and different because you can.
Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I’m working on a brand new full-length graphic novel about transgender and gender-creative children and their families in the contemporary trump-era United States, based on my Spencer Foundation work. I’m nervous and excited and beside myself that anyone would let me have free reign over hundreds of pages. It’s also not a funny book. That’s going to be different. I’m steeling myself for it.
What do you feel has been a highlight for you, in your career?
There have been so many, it is hard to pick just one, so I’ll go with the two most recent. One was when I was asked to provide some artwork for a politically-sensitive issue of Anthropology News—it made me feel like I was the real deal, both as an artist and an anthropologist. I ended up getting a whole page in full colour and people are still emailing me about how the work made them feel. The second is this book. Naptime has got to be the best thing I have ever produced, and it was a real highlight when my 12 year old asked to read it and really enjoyed it. She laughed and laughed, but also admitted that she learned something.
What do you see yourself doing in ten years' time?
Hopefully the exact same thing, but maybe co-authoring with my eldest daughter who is already a brilliant cartoonist in her own right.
What is the last book you read (non-academic)?
I have a thing where I read two books at once, like flipping channels, so I just finished reading Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow and also Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History. Light stuff, I know.
Thank you for your continued relationship with Taylor & Francis over the years. May we ask what inspired you to recurrently publish with us?
My work is precious to me, the work of tears and sweat and quite a bit of soft, sentimental feeling; and nobody else is as gentle and nurturing with authors as you all at T&F. In a world of often careless and harsh academic critique, that tells you all the things that are wrong, T&F told me I was alright.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have a pretty cool website at www.sallycampbellgalman.com where you can keep up with my exploits. See you there!
Sally Campbell Galman is Professor of Child and Family Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College of Education. You can read more about her research, writing and art at www.sallycampbellgalman.com.
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