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Scott Adkins Helps Writers Hone Their Craft
Question: What inspired you to create the Brooklyn Writers Space?
Scott Adkins: Well, my wife and I had a child, our first son, and we realized that working at home and in the apartment wasn’t going to work for us anymore. So we needed a place to work and a friend of ours told us about The Writers Room, which is the first space of this kind I think in New York City that was made and we went over and talked to them about it and realized that the waiting list was way too long. At that time it was two and a half years to actually get accepted into the space. So, we talked to them and asked them what they thought about us starting up the similar space in Brooklyn and they responded very positively and said that would be great because of their waiting list. It would actually alleviate the pressure for them. So that was the inspiration.
Also, I had just lost my job, I’d been severed from a corporation. I was working for a financial company and I had started there as a temp and then very slowly the golden cage built up around me and I had been feeling trapped and complacent at the same time so it’s difficult to have the motivation or initiative to leave the cage so they did it for me and that was a major inspiration. Once I left there then I started thinking about how I wanted my day to be structured and what I would like to do. And so, it became sort of a great union in terms of creating the space, making that sort of the thing that occupied me to provide some sort of income and also having a space for us to make our creative work and to be surrounded by an incredible community of writers which has been an unbelievable inspiration that’s been totally amazing.
Question: What is the writer’s community like at the Writers Space?
Scott Adkins: It’s a fascinating experience.It’s as diverse as there are many kinds of writers. And some people don’t like to talk to anybody at the Writers Space but they will talk about how amazing it is to actually sit in a room with twenty other people working together and typing out their work and you sort of get this buzz, this undercurrent of energy even though someone might be playing solitare next to you. Well it doesn’t matter because you sort of project that they are doing this amazing work. It becomes this motivator for you to work really hard and in that sense you’re still solitary because you can’t see anybody in our space but you can feel them. And that’s a great experience. And then there’s another group of people who like to take breaks and they’ll come out until lunch and talk to other people and work things out verbally or vent about the current political things or whatever, whatever is on their mind and, and have great discussions about that and heated debate sometimes, and then they’ll go back and get to work on their fiction or their autobiography or whatever.
Question: How does the Brooklyn Writers Space foster creativity?
Scott Adkins: We try to keep a consistent environment as much as possible and I think that’s the key: allowing people to know what to expect when they come into this space. Consistency is important for fostering anything, I think. Changes are difficult for everybody. Anytime we change one little thing in this space there’s always a little bump and sometimes it’s a positive bump, sometimes it’s a negative bump and then everything evens out and everyone’s okay again. So, we just keep a clean space, we provide a place to put their food, a place to talk on the phone, to print their work, there’s no secret really. I also try and keep the walls blank as possible in the backroom, provide an eclectic collection of books which are completely random and found on the streets of Brooklyn so that also I think helps a lot too if someone gets stuck, they can just pick up this random book about mythology and start looking through it, or a quotation book and find some inspiration there that get the gasoline lit again.
Question: What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
Scott Adkins: Ah, yeah. I think the nugget is to, which was the piece of advice given to me from some folks at the Writers Room, keep it simple and don’t try to expand beyond what you’re trying to do which in our case was providing a desk, a lamp, and a chair. There really is no need to differentiate yourself in providing a space so whatever you do, if you stay focused on the primary objective which should be a simple objective, then you can do that really, really well. If you diversify too much, it could become an issue.
One of the other things is that when we first started the Writers Space, banks were very reluctant to even consider providing money to us. In fact, nobody gave us money. We had to put most of it on credit cards, luckily at that time it was all zero percent credit cards so we took a major risk. So we asked ourselves the one question of, if we put—I had a little severance package—we put all the severance into this and we come out of this with a major piece of debt and that doesn’t work, will we feel good about having done this? And the answer was yes, it would be worth it and if it’s worth the risk, then you can go for it; if it’s not worth the risk, then don’t do it. I did try to create a non-profit and the state denied it. They said that we were not a non-profit company, we were a for-profit company choosing not to make a profit. Interestingly enough, I realized from that and going over to the foundation center, that we didn’t need to be a non-profit. We were just following in the footsteps of the Writers Room which was a non-profit and so if you can think of ways to create an efficient model where you don’t have to have extra programming and extra sources of revenue—in terms of if you’re a non-profit you need a grant-writer so that person needs to write grants to actually pay themselves and then provide another stream of programming which could be unnecessary and more work than you actually need to do.
So, for us it really was one of these things of like, I need time to write and I need a place to work, and so we kept it as simple as possible and I wouldn’t consider that an entrepreneurial outlook. Actually it’s more anti-entrepreneurial. It’s more limiting and modest. And so I think it’s important to look at what your needs are, what your expectations are for yourself and go there and not try to say “In ten years I want to have yachts and extra summer houses and all this stuff,” if that’s really not what you want to do ‘cause first of all you can’t do that if you open up a writer’s space but if that’s the kind of business you want to open then you go down that path.
Recorded on: April 24, 2009
The playwright on creating the Brooklyn Writers Space.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
These new status behaviours are what one expert calls 'inconspicuous consumption'.