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JJ mew

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Julia Sloan about her career, what inspired her to start writing, and her new book, Learning To Think Strategically.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I live in NYC with my husband and teach strategic thinking at Columbia University. Simple pleasures are exploring new art galleries and keeping an eye open for original dance and music performances. I’m an avid pie baker. And I believe a hot cup of tea can solve pretty much any problem life hurls our way. I’m happiest when hiking in the autumn sunshine.

Julia Sloan, author of Learning To Think Strategically, interview on The Table Read

Having worked and lived in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East for several decades, I have a strong affinity and curiosity for varied histories and perspectives. I work with leaders at all levels across the globe to examine strategic issues, using an unconventional approach.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

When I first learned to read, way back in primary school.

Reading and writing have always been great partners for me. I enjoyed writing stories and plays from a young age, and this naturally morphed into other forms of writing along the way.

When did you take a step to start writing?

A few months after I completed my doctoral dissertation. I was approached by Elsevier publishing house to see if I was interested in authoring a book based on my dissertation. Needless to say, I was thrilled and clueless.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

A bit more than a year. The research had already been completed, so it took about a year to write it up in a book format.  I totally immersed myself in the writing and it was an all-consuming process – far more challenging than I had ever imagined.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Not quite a year. With each subsequent edition of the book, I’ve learned more about the importance of staying close to the outline and the calendar that I sketch in the beginning stage. I’ve also learned to add some elastic to the outline. . .because life happens.

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Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Learning To Think Strategically?

I was absolutely fascinated by the findings of my research about how we learn to think strategically. It’s surprising — not at all what people expect — and is highly relevant to complex strategic problems leaders are facing in today’s highly unpredictable environment. And it broadly applies to public policy, business, as well as our personal life.

I felt compelled to write because I believed it could be a turnaround for others. I’m always surprised because people are puzzled to find out how very connected I am to my topic. They seem stunned to know that writing a piece of non-fiction can be as enthralling and obsessive as fiction writing.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Learning To Think Strategically?

Deciding what to leave out. Like every author, I’m passionate about my topic and want every reader to mirror that absorption. So, I struggled with which concepts and details to include, and which ones to omit. My natural inclination was to keep adding – a bit like the metaphor of packing a suitcase; I wanted to squeeze it all in somehow.  

Time was another big challenge. Writing a book is all consuming. Not only do the papers and notes pile up, but life itself is lived through the prism of your book; so the line between my book and my daily life became blurred.

Julia Sloan, author of Learning To Think Strategically, interview on The Table Read

What was your research process for Learning To Think Strategically?

I had conducted research for about seven years prior to writing; I love the research part of writing. It’s fascinating to trace the origin of a topic and to examine it from various cultural perspectives. But it can easily take over the writing part if I’m not careful and if I don’t glue myself to the calendar. Of course I did a scholarly literature review and scoured books and studies on strategic thinking.

How did you plan the structure of Learning To Think Strategically?

I started with history because that’s what sets the context or the backdrop for any book. Then I prioritized the content according to what I believed would be most valuable to the reader.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Learning To Think Strategically need?

I’ve been lucky to have access to my husband’s eagle eye — we certainly had animated conversations well before I sent drafts to the editors. It’s very easy to become blinded to your own work and to miss even the most obvious mistakes. I’ve also greatly benefited from several trusted friends who comb through my copy, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with excellent editors at my publishing house.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Clear your calendar!

Share bits and pieces with a few trusted friends as you go along – their candid reactions will spare you time as you move forward.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’m excited to be currently working on a draft outline for a trade book on this same topic. And I haven’t yet given up on writing a children’s book – something creative and playful.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, absolutely! It has been worth every afternoon of binge eating and every night of a lost holiday. There’s enormous gratification in the completion of a book. The discipline and perseverance that is required to thoroughly research and write a book from start to finish creates a sense of satisfaction that is quite unlike any other. And it’s really heartwarming getting enthusiastic phone calls and emails from readers.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Learning to Think Strategically, 4th ed., is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and directly from the publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.



Twitter: @JuliaSl17927697

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