Heidi Y. Lawrence is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at George Mason University. She has a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from Virginia Tech, an MA in English from George Mason, and a BA in English from Mary Washington College.
Heidi’s work examines how the tools of rhetoric can be used to better understand and respond to controversial topics about science and medicine in the public sphere. Her monograph, Vaccine Rhetorics, explores what she calls the four primary material exigencies that facilitate and sustain discord about vaccines. Examining exigencies of disease, eradication, injury, and the unknown, Vaccine Rhetorics draws upon interviews with adults and physicians as well as textual and media analyses to examine why our language about vaccines has become so heated. She then offers rhetorical theories on audience and user engagement as ways of improving public discourse about vaccines and finding more positive forms of communication and interventions. Her other published work across a range of scholarly outlets in rhetoric, medicine, and public health further examines how language functions as both a space for understanding controversies as well as an ameliorative path to changing controversial issues in the public sphere.
In this episode of Room 42, we have a candid conversation about the realities of authoring and publishing her book. Heidi shares her personal struggles and disappointments as well as life lessons learned along the way.
The rocky road epic journey to writing and publishing a book about vaccines in a global pandemic is not all fairy tales and happy endings.
In her own words: "Unintentionally, 2020 was an opportune year to publish a book about vaccines. When the year began, I thought I was 9 months and a handful of revisions away from a publishable book. Like magic it should all fall into place like a key in a lock. Between life delays, difficult reviews, and the simple fear of writing something crappy, the book (or the 'Voldemort Project' as my husband and I started calling it) was harder, took more time, and was more painful in every way than I ever could have imagined."
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