Writing as a social activity: An interview with Nelson Phillips
Nelson and I have known each for quite a long time. Prior to undertaking a career in academia, I worked in university administration. I was an administrator at McGill University when Nelson first started working there and we both sat on the faculty’s strategic planning committee. He was always very friendly (and still is!) and we sort of stayed in touch all through my graduate studies even though I was pretty much a nobody within academia and he was the much-admired rising star. When I moved to the UK to do my post doc at Oxford, Nelson introduced me to various people, which considerably facilitated my integration into the academic community there. So naturally, when my co-authors and I came up with the idea of interviewing academics on their writing habits, Nelson was one of the first people I thought of approaching. This interview took place over a noisy and crowded lunch at Imperial College. We were a bit pressed for time, so I could not ask Nelson all the questions I would have liked to. But I think our chat makes for a most interesting interview nevertheless (especially the writing collectively bit, which was quite the revelation for me! It would never have occurred to me to write with others in that way). Some months later I also interviewed Nelson’s good friend and frequent co-author Tom Lawrence – readers might enjoy reading that interview as well (I’ll be posting that one soon), as it provides an interesting “other side of the coin” take on some of the stories being told here.