Friday, September 29, 2023

Season 2, Episode 19:

Navigating the Challenges of Manuscript Writing & Publishing in Public Health Part 2

In part 2 of this episode, we are continuing the conversation with Chioma Nnaji about not only navigating the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing, but also how we are joining forces to demystify the manuscript writing and submission process and how you can ride along.

Season 2, Episode 18: Navigating the Challenges of Writing & Publishing in Public Health Part 2

by Dr. Joyee Washington and Chioma Nnaji


Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.

I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In part 2 of today’s episode, we are continuing the conversation with Chioma Nnaji about not only navigating the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing, but also how we are joining forces to demystify the manuscript writing and submission process and how you can ride along.

This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!


In today’s episode, we continue with part two of our conversation with Chioma Nnaji about the challenges of manuscript writing and publishing. During the first half of our conversation, we learned about the work Chioma does at the intersections of immigrant rights and racial justice in public health along with the biggest challenges of manuscript writing within public health.

Today, for the second part of our conversation, we explore how to navigate a system that was not designed to be inclusive or accessible and share the steps we’re taking to create a community where we can all learn and grow together. We break down what you can expect from our manuscript writing workshop, Manuscript Writing A to Z, and describe the wide range of people who can benefit from it before explaining how it’s intended to create a supportive community where we can all learn from one another. Our conversation also covers Chioma’s thoughts on how manuscript writing gives visibility to the communities she cares about and why it’s so important to write in a way that is engaging and accessible for the reader, no matter who they are.

To learn more about how to navigate the challenges of manuscript writing along with details on how to join a welcoming community that is committed to supporting one another, be sure to tune in!

To connect with Chioma:

Chioma Nnaji on LinkedIn

Chioma Nnaji – Culture of Health Leaders

Ocha Transformations


Links mentioned in this episode: 

Join the Script Squad

For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit

Key Points

  • Navigating a system that is not designed for inclusivity or accessibility. [01:01]

  • The legacy of colonization and how people in power have historically exerted ownership over the knowledge that Black women have produced. [02:39]

  • Working within and outside the system and bringing your knowledge to the table. [05:40]

  • Our commitment to creating a community where we all collectively learn and grow. [08:12]

  • A breakdown of our manuscript writing workshop; Manuscript Writing A to Z. [08:58]

  • How to join the Script Squad. [11:37]

  • The details of our early bird special for Manuscript Writing A to Z. [13:53]

  • What it was like for Chioma when she was published for the first time. [14:46]

  • The value of writing in a way that is accessible and more engaging for the reader. [17:29]

  • What brings Chioma joy in her work: community. [21:07]

  • What Chioma appreciates most about her partnership with Joyee. [22:56]

  • Find out where you can contact Chioma and learn more about her work. [24:18]

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[0:01:01] JW: In thinking about the other challenges, right around manuscript writing. We talked a little bit about this earlier, but just totally not understanding the manuscript writing and submission process from beginning to end. Sometimes even when I think about all that it takes to even try to get published. I’m like, “Who came up with this system?” 


[0:01:29] CN: Come on now. It wasn’t us. It wasn’t for us.


[0:01:34] JW: It was obviously not intended for us, obviously intended for a certain group of people. But I’m like, how do we overcome this challenge of just understanding how to navigate such an intricate system, and a system obviously not designed for everyone, a system that does not foster or pay as much attention to accessibility. We have gotten better. 


[0:02:01] CN: Even collaboration and partnerships. It doesn’t – I mean, it really is based on colonized ideas around how do you produce knowledge. That’s what it’s based on. You produce knowledge by I am the person who’s the expert. I know all. I am going to go through this process to protect my knowledge until it’s released and it’s stamped on. It’s my knowledge, so whatever it is to be, my name will be there. 


I think that in a lot of ways, another reason why I’m passionate about this is in a lot of ways knowledge from particularly Black women. Knowledge that Black women have produced has been taken, mixed up a little bit. Someone else put their name on it, right? As Black women, we’re doing the work, right, and or we don’t have access to what we’re talking about, right? We’re doing the work. Next thing we know, we see our information, our knowledge, all up on historically, we know how are as Black people, what we’ve created has been taken, whether it’s in scientific knowledge or with Black culture. 


This understanding that our knowledge has always been taken. Someone else put their name on it, right? So, being able to use this avenue is one avenue for us to say, “No, we actually produce – this is actually how we think and this is valid. This is what works for us. You need to call us up if you have any questions, or if you need us, and you need us to cover talk on it.” Right? That’s another reason why I’m so passionate about this, what we started. 


[0:03:49] JW: Yeah. Then thinking about those challenges of trying to navigate that process is like there’s so many I think about the phrases coming to my mind is people say, “There’s not a seat for me at the table.” Right? Then you have some people who say, “Well, I’m going to bring my own chair to the table.” Yeah, bring my own chair to the table. Then you have people say, “I’m going to create my own table.” Right? So, I think for me – 


[0:04:21] CN: Said that.


[0:04:23] JW: I think for me, this idea of understanding the manuscript writing and submission process is a mixture of all of that. It’s a mixture of all of that. How do we bring our folding chair to the table? We set up our own tables. Like you said, the kitchen table, right? That’s the core of the family unit, where things are shared. So, having that table is so important, but if you don’t know how to get to the table, right? If you don’t know what size, is what you’ve missed. If you don’t know, if there’s room for you at that table. 


[0:05:03] CN: What type of chair to bring.


[0:05:04] JW: What type of chair to bring, right? If you need to bring a food, you need to bring a folding chair, you need to bring a recliner to the table. 


[0:05:12] CN: What time to bring it. 


[0:05:14] JW: Yeah. What time to bring it. Everything – to the table.


[0:05:22] CN: Even if you have to Bogart the whole thing, at least you need to know the time. Okay, I know you said four, Obama show up at two. Okay.


[0:05:30] JW: And knowing who is already at the table.


[0:05:32] CN: The table, right.


[0:05:35] JW: Who’s already there? Right. Who you need to bring with you? You might move on back up. 


[0:05:40] CN: Right. I mean, I think that’s a beautiful analogy because when you really think about it, I’m a strong believer for everybody got to fight in the game. Right. That means some of us are fighting within the system. Some of us are fighting outside the system. Some of us are fighting all up in both places. Right. So, when you think about this analogy about bringing your chair to the table or creating your own table, like the question of who’s already at the table is for me who’s the journals? Who are the editors? who are the people that you need to talk to, to see if your article is the right fit? All that stuff. Right. 


Bringing, of course, a direct understanding, bringing your chair to the tables is like bringing your article, but it’s also like that type of chair, right? We get into all that, right, like there isn’t just a scientific peer review manuscript. There are other options, other ways in which you can bring your knowledge to this platform, right? So really thinking about how diverse our chairs can be so that when we sit at that table, we feel as though we’re speaking the way that we feel comfortable speaking, right? 


When that – everybody else at the table has like a King James chair, right? Like those – and you looking like, I don’t do King James chair, like that ain’t even comfortable for me. I don’t do that. I need my folding chair, like the cookout, right? I think that’s what I know, right? Like there is space for that. I appreciate that what we’ve done is we’ve broken down all of that. We’ve broken down. Okay, let’s start from you have now your goal, your purpose. Now, how are we using that to move us into the logistics around developing a manuscript? 


Everything from – I don’t want to be telling everybody, because, look, you all got to come to the next. I want to be telling you everything. I’m excited. I just want to be, you know, but I need to pull it back a little bit, right. Pull it back a little bit. But we get into it, so that we even, it ain’t just us talking to you. I think also, Joyee, the other thing that we’ve created is space for people not to know, including ourselves, right? Because both of us are still in our own journeys. You know what I’m saying, we’re still in our own journeys. We’re not coming to the space, whether you come to our manuscript manifesto, or what we’ll be talking a little bit soon is like our manuscript writing, A to Z, and some of the other offerings that we have.


When you come to them, you’re not coming to a space where it’s like, Joyee and Chioma are the all know be all know. No. We’re serious about creating a community where we are all collectively learning and growing, right? If I don’t know. I’m going to find somebody who knows, though, because I’m committed to your development, right? I’m committed to you learning. If I don’t know, then I’m like, “Oh, I need to figure that out too for myself.” Right? So, it’s really creating a space where it’s okay that we say, “I don’t know.” then we build that together. 


[0:08:58] JW: Yeah. Like we said earlier, that co-learning process, right? We’re all in this together. So, in talking about that, let’s shift a little bit and talk about the workshop that we created called manuscript writing A to Z. Now, this particular workshop is interactive. What we focus on are what are those fundamentals of manuscript writing and publishing in public health? What are some of those writing principles? How are you going to identify your impact? What are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself before writing and publishing? How do you really figure out what are those things you need to know that’s going to set you up for a clear direction on your manuscript journey? Now, I did not say that that clear direction was a straight line. 


[0:09:44] CN: You sure ain’t, tonight.


[0:09:47] JW: I did not say you go – now, look, I’m going to give an analogy here. In the South. I don’t know how you all do it in the rest of the country. 


[0:09:54] CN: The world. 


[0:09:57] JW: But in the South, if you ask somebody for direction. 


[0:10:00] CN: Come on, though. 


[0:10:01] JW: They’re not going to say, “Oh, you take interstate 55 of the road 10 miles. 


[0:10:06] CN: They’re going to start talking about grandmama hills and trees – 


[0:10:09] JW: You get off on interstate 77. You take a right, like it ain’t over. It’s going to say, “Look, you’re going to go up down over with.


[0:10:13] CN: Right. 


[0:10:18] JW: Down over with.


[0:10:20] CN: Right. You remember when grandma used to go and get them down – 


[0:10:23] JW: You’re going to come down by stop sign.


[0:10:26] CN: Right.


[0:10:27] JW: Then you’re going to go up, go up over yonder. Down by Beacon Smith’s house. [Inaudible 0:10:34] to Beacon’s Smith’s house – 


[0:10:38] CN: You got to pass it. Right. Right. 


[0:10:40] JW: you go around the curb. By the time they finish giving you direction. You’re like, “Where am I supposed to go?” 


[0:10:45] CN: Right. But once you start traveling the path, it is a clear direction. It’s a clear direction. You know where to go, but you can anticipate the twists and turns. I think that’s the thing, like you can anticipate the twists and turns on the journey. We’re not gatekeeping this information anymore. You know what I’m saying? We are making sure that you have the information that you need to gain the insights, connect with other folks, and be able to navigate the essentials of manuscript writing and publishing and what does that look like across all different dimensions of the process, right?


We’re actually going to be hosting a user manuscript writing A to Z workshop in November 2023. If you want to learn more about this particular workshop, make sure that you join the script squad, our email list Make sure you get on the email list so you can get all of the information. What I love about this particular workshop, and we’ve done it a couple times, but what I love about it is the exploration.


The exploration, the discussion. We get to learn some things that we didn’t know about either. That’s always a fun process to get to connect with people and then to be able to see people who say, “Oh, I’ve heard about this, but I didn’t know that it went this particular way or that I need to know this information. It’s going to be really helpful for me to take back to my department.” Or, “I have to lead a team in manuscript writing. This gave me a lot of the information that I need to know to get the process started.” So, that’s what I love about our manuscript writing A to Z workshop.


[0:12:38] CN: I think also people think about manuscript writing just in terms of like the sections I have to write in a manuscript. That is like several steps down the line. That’s of course important, but that’s like several steps down the line, right? We go through what are all the steps that’s going to get you there? What are all the steps that’s going to get you there? Like you said, not with the expectation or even not with the falsehood, that is a straight line. It really isn’t, but as you’re going on the journey, you have the tools, right, in order to navigate the turns and the twists, right? 


You have a community where you can come back to and say, “Hey, I had this, like I thought they said turn right when you see the pantry. I turned right, and it was a big ditch.” You’re like, “Oh, you’re there.” This is what should have happened, right? Being able to have also that community that you can come back to and be held accountable, but also be able to get those other questions answered. 


[0:13:53] JW: Yeah, exactly. Our manuscript writing A to Z workshop, we will be having an early bird special. Make sure you get on that email list. You get on our script squad list so that you can get all the information when we drop all the details and the reminders. That is how we communicate all the information about our workshops. Please make sure. We do offer CHES credits, too. If you are a certified health education specialist, we also offer CHES credits for our manuscript writing A to Z workshop, as well. 


That is something else to note. I want to ask you this question. We’ve talked about challenges. We talked about the process of writing and publishing. Do you remember the feeling you got, when you finally got published for the first time? Like what was that experience and what did that feel like? 


[0:14:46] CN: Well, for me, it was like, “Oh, I can do this.” “Oh, okay.” But then it also made me think about, oh, now what knowledge or what do I want to put out there through this mechanism, right? It made me start thinking more about my work, because I think part of us having a particular focus on community and public health practitioners, right, although we welcome researchers, but we’re very clear in terms of where this knowledge would be helpful is part of our focus is people even understanding that your work is valid. 


Your work is worthy to be in these spaces, like really, like it is really worthy. You will be surprised at how these spaces are asking these questions. You throw out a manuscript, you’re like, the answer is right here, like all you have to do is come and ask me, right? So, I think that is also what came for me, like okay, you’re asking these questions. My work is in that space and figuring that out. It gives visibility to your work, it gives visibility. I mean, at least these are the reasons why I got so committed to doing media skip writing is it gave visibility to my work. It gives visibility to communities I care about that I love that I reflect. It also gave voice to ways in which we know how to solve these issues. I don’t even know how else to say it, right? 


Then it also can be a way in which you build better partnerships and collaboration, right? I learned a lot about my co-workers in writing a manuscript with them. Hell, I’ve done a lot of it. Good and challenging. It also helps just you being a people person and having to work better with others around some of these things. 


[0:16:52] JW: I’m trying to remember. I’m trying to answer that question for myself. What was it like when I finally got public? Because of course, my first publications were in the biomedical spaces. I was like, “Finally, I got it.” It was like checking a box off too. Now when I tend to work on manuscripts, like you said, it’s such a greater purpose, right? One of the things that I love about just writing in general, especially coming from a biomedical sciences side, is that in the heart sciences, you got all this jargon, right? Just all this academic speak and whatever, but what I love about writing in general, but also the manuscript writing process now is who I get to write it for. 


[0:17:38] CN: Oh, yeah. 


[0:17:39] JW: I can write it in a way that’s more engaging for me, but also going to be more engaging for the reader. We’re going to make these concepts a lot more clearer, or sharing the work a lot more clearer, and that people can read it and be like, “Oh, that’s what they’re doing. I feel like other times, especially in the heart sciences, you got to read the same thing as that 50 billion – 


[0:18:05] CN: Right, because you all got some words, all them big words up in there. 


[0:18:09] JW: Right. 


[0:18:10] CN: Where is that? I don’t even need to be up in there. 


[0:18:14] JW: Exactly. I’m like, “Can we just say the words in plain language, so people understand it?” 


[0:18:21] CN: Well, I understand. Let’s start with me.


[0:18:25] JW: Who’s going to use this if they don’t understand it. I love that shift in being able to write in a way, so that whoever needs to read, whoever my audience is, whoever I’m writing it for. They can understand it and take it and apply it in whatever way that they need. 


[0:18:44] CN: The application, right?


[0:18:45] CN: It becomes a ripple effect. We’re just not writing it just for somebody to read it like a magazine like, “Oh, good. Let me put that down.” Like you want to know who write it, so that people can read and say, “Oh, that’s something I can do. That’s something I can replicate. That’s something I can do in my community. That’s an idea.” Having that ripple effect is so important. Manuscript writing is one of the ways that we can accomplish that. 


[0:19:10] CN: I think also, I mean, as you were talking, it came to me, something came to me like, just the way in which it’s positioned that manuscript writing isn’t accessible, right? It’s interesting. I was talking to one of the trainings, I was doing with the community partner. This woman graduated with a master’s degree. Okay. She was like, “Oh, I can’t. The manuscript writing an article. Oh my God.” I was like, “How many papers did you have to write in your master’s degree?” She started smiling. I said, “Yeah. Yeah, let’s not do that.” Right. 


You know, like this way in which we think is like so – that’s why I said, when you ask that question, I was like, “Okay.” Like you’ve got to know certain things, but like, “Okay, I’ve written a paper.” I graduated with a – even if I didn’t graduate. I know how to put words together and put a paper together. Again, I think for me, and I think what we’ve accomplished through the Script Lab, and we will continue to accomplish is making it accessible. Like you already have the skills, let’s just put the two together, right, get the amazing work that you’re doing out there. 


[0:20:19] JW: In wrapping up this episode, of course, I got to ask you the signature question, but for you, because you’re special. I’m going to give you a two-part question. 


[0:20:31] CN: Well, I have to be special, girl. Look. I like how you made like I’m going to give you extra work, but it’s because you’re a special girl. 


[0:20:39] JW: giving you extra credit work, because you’re special. Part one is what brings you joy in your work. Just overall, what brings you joy in your work? But the part two of it is what has brought you joy in seeing the original idea that you came to me with and in seeing the Script Lab or public health being born and come to life, like what has that been like for you? 


[0:21:07] CN: What brings me joy in my work? I mean, what really, I say to folks, what used to be on my LinkedIn page. I changed it recently was everything community. Literally, I wake up and that’s what I’m about. That’s what brings me joy. The fact that I’m able to work in community. Community that reflects me. The fact that I’m able to be in spaces and be able to voice those principles in a way in which it’s like, no community can show up here, right? I’ve worked in academic institutions, I’ve worked like, I’ve worked at grassroots organizations. I’ve worked in government agencies. I’m a consultant, I work with different organizations. What never fails is people understanding the value of community. 


Even if they don’t understand it to a point of humanity. They’re like, “Oh, I know it’s important because I’m not going to be able to do this initiative if I don’t have community there, right? So, what always brings me joy is making sure that communities in space, wherever I go. A lot of my advocacy work and movement work around African immigrants. African immigrant health has been around, if I’m the only person in the room, that means I’m not doing my work or my job. If I’m the only one in the room talking about whatever I’m talking about, advocating for, whatever, then I’m not doing my job. So, being able to be in a space where community is just there, chilling, relaxing, eating food, cooking whatever, jello of rice, whatever, goat meat, whatever we do it, is what brings me joy, is what I wake up every morning to see. 


[0:22:48] JW: I love that. Don’t forget, you got to answer your extra credit. 


[0:22:52] CN: Oh, God. Okay, what was the – 


[0:22:55] JW: I didn’t forget. 


[0:22:56] CN: Oh. I was done. Yeah, so I mean Joyee, honestly, I’ve really appreciated working with you. There’s just so many ways in which you’ve expand my thinking around how we can do this work. I think the fact that we give each other space just to be and just to throw out whatever we have in our minds. We challenge each other. It’s just another reminder of how powerful Black women can be and how powerful we are individually and how powerful we are together. So, being able to do this with you brings me joy, being able to see where it’s going to take my personal journey and then take whatever our collective journey and then the collective journey of people who are going to continue to interact with the Script Lab and be a part of the Script Lab and be on the squad. It’s just, I’m just excited. 


[0:23:53] JW: Yeah. We are super excited about that together. Like you said, the power of Black women, for sure. So, we are in this with you, for those who are listening. We are in this with you. We’re going to ride it out. Okay, we’re going to ride it out with you. Once again, you can join the Script Squad Then also, Chioma, if people want to get in contact with you, they want to reach you. How can they reach you? 


[0:24:18] CN: Google me. I’m on LinkedIn. Just my first and last name, you’ll find me. You’ll also find my firm, Ocha Transformations, O-C-H-A Transformations. I mean, so check me out on LinkedIn. 


[0:24:35] JW: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the Public Health Joy Podcast. 


[0:24:41] CN: It’s just amazing, like you’re doing amazing work. 

[0:24:44] JW: Oh, thank you. This is going to wrap up part two of the Public Health Joy Podcast.



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