Published faculty write about array of topics, use books as learning tools
4 mins read

Published faculty write about array of topics, use books as learning tools

From reggae reference books to a cat memoir, professors at the University of South Dakota are publishing books on a variety of topics.

USD professors are required to publish their own work, whether it be in the form of a scholarly article or a fiction novel.

David Moskowitz, a music professor, has written four books and is in the editing phase of his fifth. He’s written about reggae, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and he is now working on the 100 greatest rock bands of all time.

Moskowitz’s first book was an adapted version of his graduate school dissertation about Bob Marley. He did his research for four weeks in Jamaica and did the majority of his work right in Bob Marley’s house.

“There’s a saying, ‘Find something you like to do and find someone who will pay you to do it,’ which is a double edged sword because sometimes that turns into then you don’t like it anymore, but that’s not the case with me,” Moskowitz said. “I feel like I just continue to like it more and more.”

Moskowitz’s books are reference books, he said. So although he doesn’t use them as textbooks, he still refers to them while teaching.

More importantly, he said he draws from his experiences while teaching.

“It’s the best way to do it,” Moskowitz said. “The Internet is great, but I’m kind of old school about it, too — I like going to where people were and seeing those environments, and being able to work in Bob’s house was unprecedented for me.”

Ed Allen, a retired USD professor, has written two novels, one book of short stories, one book of poetry and one fiction-writing textbook, along with other unpublished work.

Allen used to teach creative writing and American literature. He also found value in being able to share knowledge from his own writing career to students.

“It gave me some respectability — they knew that I was involved and I knew something about the process,” Allen said.

Allen estimated that each one of his books took about a year to write.

“It’s a long haul,” he said. “You really have to have confidence that it’s worth doing.”

Allen’s latest project is a collection of short stories. He said he plans to eventually write another novel.

Although he said luck has something to do with it, Allen said he believes without having plenty of reading experiences, young writers stand little chance of making it big.

“Read a lot. That’s probably the most important thing,” Allen said. “Read a lot, and get excited about words.”

Matthew Moen, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has written six political science books and one cat memoir.

With a few changes, Moen’s dissertation became his first book — “The Christian Right and Congress” — which focused on the impact of the Christian right on Congress during the Reagan era.

On average, Moen said each of his books took three to four years to complete.

“I always have wanted to try to do a book that was meaningful in the sense that it tackled sort of an important subject,” Moen said. “Even if you can’t execute it perfectly, I always thought that was more important to do than to take a comparatively minor project and try to make something out of it.”

Moen said he has found that although writing is difficult, writing a book is not the most challenging task.

“The more challenging task is identifying a research question that really matters,” Moen said. “And then figuring out what original evidence or data you can bring that helps explain the phenomenon you’re trying to explain.”

Moen’s advice for aspiring authors is to market their work as best they can.

“It’s so much more crowded, and the bar is quite a bit lower in some cases to get something published, so getting yours to stand out and catch the attention of people, I think, is pretty difficult,” Moen said.

Regardless of content, all three writers have found value in the experience that comes with being published.

“I need to publish to stay, I think, relevant to my students and with my discipline,” Moskowitz said.

(Photo: Retired professor Ed Allen has written two novels and is working on a collection of short stories. Ally Krupinsky / The Volante)