Activity Update: December 2022

2022 has been an interesting year. In January, Greg Cuppan and I published our Kindle book, Writing for the Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Reader. We learned a lot about working with Kindle publishing tools, preparing both a print-on-demand version and an e-version. We have been using the book, selling it as part of our training contracts with various companies. At year end, we have sold about 500 copies, the vast majority being print versions. Our clients have let us know they appreciate the material, which consolidates our evolving advice and examples from over 25 years of consulting to the industry.

We like the free shipping on Amazon Prime, so the books can arrive in training rooms in Europe or the US before our sessions. Some participants have arrived for training with sticky notes on content they want to flag for discussion. Amazon handles billing in euros or dollars or yen, sending our 70% royalties to our business address periodically. We kept the price reasonable, at about $30.

Business has tended to come to McCulley/Cuppan without solicitation efforts. Recent and repeat clients include Novartis, Lilly, Sandoz, Alexion, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, EMD Serono, BMS, and GSK. We have lots of work in clinical pharmacology, especially in oncology and neurology.

I tend to do most of my work at home, using teleconferencing, Sharepoint, Word, and Acrobat. Greg has started traveling to sites again, though not without challenges from travel disruptions and Covid. As for me, I like having a few hours of work each week to keep me busy with new learning.

Activity update

Life continues. I’ve moved to southern Delaware, near the beaches of Fenwick Island, on the golf course at Bayside. We are closer to our daughter Grace and her family. Santa Fe was great and we miss it, but that’s a past chapter now.

I have a new book out, co-authored and Kindle-published with my consulting partner, Greg Cuppan. It is a very targeted book, Writing for the Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Reader. Greg and I have been consultants and trainers for some 27 years to many pharma companies. We gathered our best instructional materials and examples, and we tried to capture our best thinking in a brief book.

We learned a lot about Kindle publishing and found ourselves pushing the limits of format and presentation. We are offering the book in eBook format at $19.99, with a paperback version to come in January, 2022. We will use the book in all our training courses. We are getting lots of interest on LinkedIn to our pre-publication announcement.

Writer’s Help is now in its third edition, integrated with the Achieve learning management system that now holds all Bedford/Macmillan textbooks. Covid threw a wrench in the academic publishing business, with many schools just trying to manage forced changes. I hope the move toward distance learning/hybrid instruction will make Writer’s Help even more attractive. It is built from the ground-up to be an online resource. Integration with Achieve gives it a great set of tools for peer review, assignment tracking, individualized learning, and writing in the disciplines.

Retirement update

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 1/2 years since I updated this post. Still retired, still in Santa Fe, still doing the things I’ve done in the past.

I’m looking forward to the release of Writer’s Help v3.0 from Macmillan/Bedford (F2020). It’s being class-tested right now (Sp2020) in multiple classrooms around the company. The product has evolved toward a full class management system from what was originally an online reference for writers. That means apps within Writer’s Help for making assignments, circulating and commenting on drafts, diagnostics, exercises, annotated models, and links to supporting reference content.

Nancy Sommers (co-author at Harvard) and I worked with disciplinary specialists to create a number of guides to writing in science, economics, art, professional writing, psychology, and other fields. These can be purchased as stand-alone guides and are also part of the larger Writer’s Help. Each has annotated models of writing genres typical in a given discipline.

Macmillan has invested heavily in the product. Writer’s Help will be part of a suite of textbook/learning systems for the full catalog of Macmillan’s offerings (within a platform named Achieve). I think the main lesson for me is that textbooks and instructional materials are part of an intensely challenging, rapidly changing market.

I’ve continued working with Greg Cuppan on a variety of consulting and training projects for the pharmaceutical industry. Recent clients include Sandoz, Novartis, Pfizer, Retrophin, EMD Serono, and GSK. Projects center on designing documents, preparing briefing packages for regulatory reviewers, improving clinical trial protocols, assessing document quality, and training groups of scientists who write these documents. It’s been enjoyable to teach groups of scientists in Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, and elsewhere, all via teleconferencing.



People ask how is retirement, but I am not sure, yet. Not much has changed. I am not teaching this year, and I miss having classes and seeing students. So what have I been doing?

I am converting our PBL Clearinghouse (problem-based learning) from a pass-worded, secure site to an open access, Creative Commons site. We want to make it easy for anyone to access the large set of classroom-tested problems. We want a site that is easy to manage and that makes it much easier to post new problems. We have over 23,000 registered users, and we would like to engage more of these users in sharing their teaching materials. The site is here.

With colleagues at UD, I’ve been planning a winter workshop focused on problem-based learning. In the past, we have attracted faculty from around the country and from quite a few international locations, in addition to our core group of UD faculty. In case you are interested, you can find details here.

I have been working with my editor, Barbara Flanagan, at Bedford on revising materials in Writer’s Help 2.0, including fine-tuning the way things work. We’ve sold about 23,000 (there’s that number again) copies this year, with major continuing adoptions at Illinois, Washington, Georgia, Florida, and elsewhere–those are the flagship schools. Just as important are the community college adoptions and our success at various state schools. I’ve been working on interactive modules on such topics as concise style, documenting sources, and invention. You can find links to Writer’s Help on my links on this site.

I’ve been keeping up my posts to Bedford Bits, and starting to participate more actively in the new English Community at at Bedford/Macmillan. Bedford is working hard to maintain connections with the broad community of English teachers, including, of course, composition teachers.

I’ve been working on a project with Lilly pharmaceuticals, to improve the quality and efficiency of their clinical trial reports. These documents tend to bulk up as the company authors figure it’s better to include information than leave it out. One report we looked at was 88,000 pages, so you can get an idea of the challenge.

I finished a couple of external reviews of faculty dossiers for promotions at Kansas State and UT-Arlington. I’ve got a Rhetoric Review revise and resubmit waiting for my attention, and another book manuscript in revise and submit for Perspectives on Writing Series, from the WAC Clearinghouse, under the editorship of Susan McLeod. It’s amazing how much Web traffic the Clearinghouse generates and how many downloads of our books are generated. I’ve also been checking and correcting all broken links across the Clearinghouse, a task I’ve neglected for some time.

I had a great site visit to Miami University of Ohio a couple weeks ago, as a member of their national advisory board to the Howe Writing Program. Kate Ronald will be retiring and they are currently searching for a new director–a great position. I also had excellent visits to the University of Illinois and Carthage College, to promote best instructional practices with Writer’s Help.

And, oh yeah, I’ve been doing more fishing in the mountain streams of New Mexico and working on my golf game. That sounds like retirement to me.

Teaching my final term

I’ll be teaching my final term at UD this spring. I’ll teach an introcomp course, as I have for many years, since the mid-Seventies. I am looking forward to using Version 2 of Writer’s Help, testing it out with students, figuring out what is working and what needs improvement. I’ve always enjoyed working with first-year students.

I’ll be team teaching two courses, a first year course for prospective mathematics secondary teachers. We are working under an NSF grant that allows us to learn math through technology, with a heavy emphasis on team-based problem solving and communication activities. It’s been a good experience, working with my colleague Alfinio Flores in Math.

My other course is also NSF funded, under the IGERT program, with an emphasis on the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Our focus is Business, Ethics, and Communication in the Life Sciences. It’s our third go-round. We line up an industry partner and challenge teams of students with a real problem. Our PhD and MS students are from various scientific disciplines.

I have to work on my answer to questions about what I will do in retirement. I think I’ll save that for my next post…

Summer and Sabbatical

We are just finishing spring term and lucky me, I have a fall sabbatical. I’ve got some projects to work on, including new material for Writer’s Help. Two new WID chapters will include Writing in Art, and Technical and Professional Writing.

I’ll be doing a project with Greg Cuppan, my consulting partner on pharmaceutical work, that takes a look at the current state of the industry and documentation practices.

I’ve got family travel plans to Spain in June and Greece in October, so that is pretty exciting.

In case anyone is reading…have a good summer.

Spring 2014

We are about to begin spring classes at UD. I’ll be teaching our Introduction to Professional Communication. I’ll also team teach a graduate course for students in biotech: Business, Ethics, and Communication in the Life Sciences.

Winter break took me to Concepcion, Chile, for the PAN PBL meeting. I keynoted on interdisciplinary problem-based learning, with some highlighting of the new classrooms we have been building on campus. I’ll teach in a new space, designed for teams, full of technology. It should be interesting.


Beginning Fall 2013

We’ll be back at school in a week for Fall 2013. I’ll be teaching a section of first-year writing, like I always do, in part because I like working with new students and in part because I can test and refine Writer’s Help. I’ll be mentoring a new grad student, Kiley Dhatt, who did her undergraduate work at U Washington. She has interests in writing studies, so it should be fun to work together.

Writer’s Help is doing well, with program adoptions at some flagship universities: Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, Colorado. We’ve also got strong adoptions at important community colleges and the University of Maryland University College, which is their long-established online education program. Bedford is migrating WH to a new “Platform X” server, which should give us increased flexibility for interface, interactivity, and new content.

I had a long  review article published in College Composition and Communication in the recent Spring issue: CCC0644Review.

I’ve also got chapters published in recent anthologies. I write about “Teaching Visual Rhetoric” in Designing Texts: Teaching Visual Communication, edited by Eva Brumberger and Kathryn Northcut (Amityville, NY: Baywood Press 2013, 301-310). Writing this gave me a chance to work with Eva Brumberger, who was my student at New Mexico State.

I also have a chapter on the development of Writer’s Help in a new volume on software applications in teaching writing, likewise published by Baywood with a 2013 imprint:

Developing a Web-Served Handbook for Writers.” In Designing Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms. Edited by Baotung Gu and George Kennedy. Amityville, NY: Baywood Press. 2013: 155-174.

Some upcoming travel will include Cincinnati in September, for a roundtable on health discourse, moderated by Lisa Meloncon. In November, I’ll return to Oahu to evaluate their English department, which I first did 7 years ago. I’ll attend a training course in DC later that month for a workshop on evaluating critical thinking using the CAT Test, which is part of our NSF TUES grant. In January, I’ll present at the PAN PBL conference (problem-based learning) in Concepcion, and travel around Chile a bit. Later in spring, I’ll be at Purdue as an external review team on their English department.

It should be a good year…

NSF Grant to Support Secondary Science and Math Preservice Students

I received notice recently that an NSF grant I applied for has been funded. I am PI, working with co-PIs Alfinio Flores in Math and Harry Shipman in Physics. We are creating a first-year experience course that combines big ideas in science, with applied, non-calculus math, with technology and communication activities. Our UD media did a nice story on the project, so look here for more details: NSF TUES Grant Story.

PAN PBL in Cali, Columbia

In early July, 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the hemispheric problem-based learning conference in Cali. About 300 attended, many from Brazil and Columbia, but also from the U.S., the E.U., and from Chile and Peru, where PBL is well established.

There is a lot of interest in active, engaged approaches to learning. It was impressive to hear about efforts at the University of Sao Paulo to train 1,000 public school teachers in a cohort, with discussions of doubling the size. Faculty from Maastricht University in the Netherlands spoke convincingly of the evidence for PBL in terms of learning outcomes, and faculty at Javeriana University in Cali offered terrrific demonstrations of learning centers geared to PBL: a simulated hospital, a simulated supermarket, and a simulated stock exchange.

At UD, we have continuing interest in PBL from faculty on and off campus. We’ll have a workshop in January, 2012, likely focused on STEM problem writing. Our faculty leadership team has been traveling to present workshops on various campuses.