What Is An “Ex-pert?”

by Kassandra Lamb

I was asked this week to present at a local marketing workshop for authors. It was suggested I could present on either “kickoff” parties or how to get reviews.

Since I’ve never done an in-person “kickoff” party, I quickly ruled out that topic. I was about to dismiss the suggestion regarding reviews as well, since I’m hardly a PR expert, when my fertile mind started constructing a lecture on the subject.

You see, I used to be a teacher. I taught college-level psychology for 17 years.

And one of the things I learned during my tenure in academia is that how much you know about a topic, while important, is not THE most important thing that makes you an “expert” who can educate others on the subject.

Technically, the definition of expertise is “possessing a high level of knowledge and an intuitive understanding of a particular subject.” But here’s MY favorite definition of an expert:

“Ex” is an unknown quantity and “spurt” is a drip of water under pressure. Therefore, “ex-pert” is an unknown drip under pressure.

So what is the most important thing that makes one an expert worthy of presenting your knowledge to others? IMHO, it’s whether or not you can convey what you know on the topic in a clear way.

book cover

Part of Marcy’s incredibly good Busy Writer’s Guide series.

My editor, Marcy Kennedy is, in my opinion, the best editor in the world. Does she know everything there is to know about plot arcs and grammatical constructions?

I don’t know (probably not).

But what I do know is that she is superb at EXPLAINING why something doesn’t work and what I need to do to make it work. And she gives excellent examples. She knows how to convey what she knows to others, and that, for me, makes her an expert.

Academia is full of teachers who can’t teach. They are “experts” in their fields, and that’s wonderful from a research perspective, because often those “experts” are good, sometimes brilliant, researchers.

But why are they expected to teach our youth?

This is a serious flaw in our higher level education system. Those who are “teaching” in our colleges and graduate schools are all too often mediocre to horrible teachers.

When I interviewed for my first college-level teaching job, I asked the person who would become my department chair if getting a second masters degree in secondary education (I already had one in my field) would help me advance.

He laughed (an ironic laughter; he got the issue here). “This is academia. Nobody cares if you can teach.”

me presenting

The last time I presented to this group, I actually DID know what I was talking about…lol (How to Incorporate Social Issues in Your Fiction presentation, April, 2017)

I taught for that university for 9 years. It was the best job I ever had, because that institution did care about teaching. But sadly, they are the exception to the rule among universities.

So I made a first draft of a list of “do’s and don’t’s” for getting reviews for one’s books… And lo and behold, I think I do know enough about the subject to do this presentation for my local authors’ group.

Does that make me an “expert?”

I’m not sure, but I agreed to present at the workshop. Because what I do know is that I know how to teach.

What’s your area of expertise? Are you an “expert” at presenting the information to others?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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  • Reply
    Barb Taub
    July 11, 2017 at 2:01 am

    “A critic is a legless man who teaches running.” —Channing Pollock.

    As far as I can tell, your legs work great. My guess is you’re a terrific teacher. (Probably a darn fine critic too.) Wish I’d been to that workshop!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      July 11, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Aww, thanks for the vote of confidence, Barb! I do have working legs, so good to go…lol

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    July 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    It’s tough to push past that “expert” moniker, but being able to convey the information is crucial! Academia has never quite caught on to that notion. It’s all about the books you publish and the papers you give at conventions. That’s fine for communicating with grad students, but 19-yo undergrads? No way.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      July 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      I knew you’d understand, Kathy!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    As a retired high-school teacher who spent 7 years in college, I believe most secondary teachers are better teachers than professors are. During my career, I taught everything from Remedial Reading I to Advanced Placement, but every year of my 27 in the classroom, I had at least one section of freshmen. Some years, all five of my classes were freshmen. So, I consider myself an expert on 14-15 year olds. 🙂

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      July 11, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Oh my, yes, I would say you are an expert on teenagers, Vinnie. After having taught college freshmen, I developed a whole new respect for high school teachers!

  • Reply
    Kirsten Weiss
    July 11, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    This one really resonated with me. I’m frequently questioning whether I’m good enough to teach or mentor people in certain subjects. If people are asking, then it’s probably a good sign they think you’ve got something valuable to share!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      July 12, 2017 at 1:18 am

      That’s what I thought, Kirsten. At first I was thinking, “Me, nah!” Then…well, maybe I do know few things about that. 🙂

  • Reply
    Karen McFarland
    July 12, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I would think after all your experience you would know a thing or two Kassandra! I have no idea what would be my expertise. But if called upon, I may put in my two cents. 🙂

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      July 12, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Aww, thanks for your support, Karen. I don’t know what other areas of expertise you have—many I’m sure—but you are definitely expert at being a nice person! 🙂

      Actually wouldn’t it be awesome if organizations held workshops on that topic!!

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