Monday, April 13, 2009

MMAP Update April 13: Publishing Advice from the Professionals

But first, an update: I worked for over an hour today and got another paragraph into good shape. I had wanted to finish the chunks on both of the remaining critics in my "lit review" --- we may need to have a discussion of what exactly a literary lit review is, by the way --- but it seems like one paragraph per day is my top pace. No wonder I have to use the "work-every-single-day" model! I may return to my pile later tonight and get it all organized and ready for first thing tomorrow morning.


If anyone has wondered just what the heck is peer review and what do scholars do when they submit an article, allow me to post some of the essays I have gathered over the years. (The review of the Belcher workbook is forthcoming, but this isn't it.) First of all, over at Historiann, co-editor of the journal Gender and History Ruth Karras gave a very useful guest post on what she expects from a journal submission, what the journal is looking for, and a run-down of the process of journal-editing. Go look ---- and thank you to all you scholars who are trying to demystify the process! (true, you are also probably doing it for yourselves in that you'd rather see more high-quality stuff come in and less bad writing, but we will ignore that now.)

Second, I have a copy of "Demystifying Publishing: The Manuscript Submission, External Review, and Journal Production Process" by Toni Mortimer, which was published in the JOURNAL OF WOMEN’S HISTORY, VOL. 13 NO. 1 (SPRING) 2001. It is a very basic, nuts-and-bolts description of the entire process an article goes through from submission to printing, with handy definitions of everything along the way from refereeing to page proofs. (I suppose I should make that an A to Z right there, but you all know what an abstract is, right? And what Z-related words do we have in publishing? eh?) It has a lot of useful (if depressing) explanation for why publication takes so long to go through, varying from backlogs to special issues to slowpoke reviewers. This article is very helpful --- I would assign it to grad students in seminar hint hint, gee why did no one in my grad program ever once think to do this?

Third, in the category of useful-but-says-a-lot-about-just-how-shitty-this-whole-academic-process-is, I have "Feminist Co-Mentoring: A Model for Academic Professional Development" by GAIL M. MCGUIRE and JO REGER, published in the 2003 NWSA JOURNAL, VOL. 15 NO. 1 (SPRING). While they propose a system of graduate students mentoring each other through the program because it is more egalitarian (and thus feminist in their definition), this is also about them putting a positive spin on having active, overloaded advisors with too many students and no time to spare. There is a difference between encouraging students to be self-reliant and standing them up for meetings or never telling them to publish (or how to do such a thing).

I read the co-mentoring article right about when I was going ABD and now I realize how immensely it shaped my attitudes. I thought, yeah, I didn't get jack for attention, no one seems to get their advisor's attention, but if I want to get ahead in academia I need to just teach it to myself or get my fellow grads to teach it with me. It has a lot to do with all the groups and symposia and workshops I helped organize in my department, it has a lot to do with why I read academic web sites and blogs (unfortunately this has become a bit of an obsession), and it has structured a lot of why and how I blog. Thing is, looking at it from here, I notice that I did a lot of work and gave a lot of good advice to people who never in turn "stepped up" to help me out. And there are people in the department who have very responsive advisors who really pull strings to get their students connected, but none of that info or influence ever got handed back to me. In fact most of them never even told me they were getting additional, special help or being introduced and recommended to people who were putting together an essay collection, for example. So now that most of them have gone on to jobs or gotten job offers recently and I have not gotten anything, not even interviews, I'm feeling kinda bitter and turned off by the whole collaborative help in academia idea.

The other thing I notice is that the people who are writing advice and publishing how-to-professionalize articles and really attempting to help and mentor grad students are coming out of feminism/women's studies. Coincidence? And also a lot from history --- is this because women in history departments feel there is more need to bring women into their discipline and mentor them? (Is there a literary-studies "how to publish things" article? Just cause I haven't seen one doesn't mean that it hasn't been published. And what does it mean if there isn't one?)


Anonymous said...

Oh well, the problem of choosing one's advisor carefully. Of course everyone points how how important that is, but - according to my friends/colleagues and my experiences - you just realize in the process of writing your dissertation what kind of an advisor you need and what your advisor thinks "advising" means.

Don't turn bitter, please. I am sure all your projects gave you useful insights, connected you with your fellow students, and built a good basis for future projects with them.

Historiann said...

I'm not sure why historians have been more aggressive about sharing their advice. I wonder if it has to do with the anxieties I'm picking up among many women's historians that our field isn't where most grad students want to be any more since it's not the latest new thing. (Or if we're just extremely bossy people?)

Thanks for the round-up of citations and links.

Sapience said...

There are a few articles from the literary perspective, but even my advisor who runs a writing for publication workshop every so often ends up assigning the articles you mention a lot.

I think the one I'm thinking of is Meaghan Morris, "Publishing Perils, and How to Survive Them: A Guide for Graduate Students," Cultural Studies 12.4 (1998): 498-512. Though it may not actually be literary based... I can't find my copy, so I'm working on only vague recollections from the class where I read it.

There are also a few interdisciplinary books and articles: Susan Peck McDonald's Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences and the edited collection The Grad Student's Guide to Getting Published though the latter is problematic in a number of different ways.

Dr. Crazy said...

You know, nothing specifically lit studies comes to right to my mind (though this doesn't mean there isn't anything out there - it just means that I never got that sort of thing assigned AT ALL in grad school). In my grad program, there was a lot of emphasis on there being no one "right way" to do something (which then amounted to little guidance about how to do things at all). I wonder whether this is intrinsic to the way that lit studies approaches scholarship, or whether it was just my program.

Dr. Crazy said...

er, right to my mind. Long day :)