Last fall, my friend, Tom Hilpert, established a writers’ group that he dubbed “The League of Literary Gentlemen.” Originally, the group was composed of Tom, Rob, who is another local writer who also publishes and writes history, and me. This past spring, Rob had to drop out, so we added Michael Kosser, one of my colleagues at Cumberland.
We are an eclectic group. Tom is a pastor and novelist. He has written two books, Galedor and Superior Justice. He is currently working on a sequel to Superior Justice. Michael is a well-known songwriter and prolific author, having written a number of fiction and non-fiction books.
We try to meet once a month and critique one another’s works-in-progress. It’s been a great motivator for me to know that, on a regular basis, these guys expect to read something that I’ve written. It’s also been helpful to have the perspective of other authors who are not academic historians. It’s easy to get lost in the assumptions and expectations of the profession and forget to communicate outside of my scholarly circle. They kid me about writing less stodgily, which has been a good inducement for me to analyze my writing and make it more readable. My writing is still not as “edgy” as they would probably like, but at least the thought is in my mind as I’m drafting chapters. Hopefully, I’ve been helpful to them as well.
If you don’t have someone or several someones outside of the profession reading your work, then I encourage you to do so. It can keep you aware that historians should be writing not only for their academic peers but also for the public.