I think co-authorship gets a bad rap. Publishers tell me that books with multiple authors simply won't sell. Academics report that their peers and tenure committees don't give them enough credit for co-written work.
By contrast, my career has been built, at least in part, on co-writing books and proposals and essays with other people. I'm not a huge believer in "writing by committee" -- at the end of the day, I think good writing has to have a singular voice -- but I have enjoyed collaborating with a broad range of co-authors. At the end of the day, writing is hard work. It is nice to be able to share the pain.
I'm not positive, but I think the person that I have co-written with the most over the years has been Aubrey Fox. I bring this up because last night we formally said goodbye to Aubrey, who is leaving the Center for Court Innovation to head up the American operations of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
If you were building a dream co-author from scratch, I think it would look a lot like Aubrey. First and foremost, he is a wonderful writer, capable of explaining complex ideas in clear language and introducing a sly humor into even dry topics. He's also quick -- he can create something out of nothing in just a few hours. But the quality that I admire the most about Aubrey is that he is a fearless reporter, willing to talk to anyone to learn what he needs to tell a story. In another, alternate universe, he would have been a great journalist.
The biggest project Aubrey and I worked on together was the book Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure that we published a couple of years ago with Urban Institute Press. I think this is probably the best piece of work we did together, but if you are looking to read something shorter, here are three of my favorites:
- Combining Research and Practice -- An attempt to explain the business model of the Center for Court Innovation that was commissioned by NESTA.
- Trial and Error in the Court System -- An op-ed that we wrote for the Guardian.
- What Lessons Can Business Teach Criminal Justice? -- An op-ed that appeared in the Huffington Post.
I'm sad to see Aubrey leave the Center but I'm enormously proud of all that we were able to accomplish together over the past 15 years. I'm hoping that I get to co-write with him again at some point in the future.