Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grievances Forgone

Almost exactly four years ago, I thought my life had changed dramatically for the worse. Of course, I was wrong. Ultimately, I think what was and felt at the time a horrible thing was the outset of a series of exciting, good, and necessary changes. And I am grateful for the experience despite the unnecessary suffering it caused me, because I have gained dear friends, knowledge, perspective, and strength.

Nevertheless, I commemorate this experience annually by reading a poem. Today's is Shakespeare's Sonnet 30:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past, 

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, 

And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, 

For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,

And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe, 

And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight: 

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, 

And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er 

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan, 

Which I new pay as if not paid before. 

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restored and sorrows end.
Who is my "dear friend"? Perhaps it would be better to ask who isn't? Right now I am thinking of three: one is a "precious friend hid in death's dateless night," a dear close friend I lost the same year I thought I had lost myself. This man remains one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met, a scholar whose mind and personality shone bright and strong. Another is my adorable beau, now my husband, who first showed me his strength when helping me through these troubles (and we had only been dating for a couple of months). And the third is my dear best colleague/friend Veralinda, who gave me a stern talking to when it seemed I would drown the world with tears and it was time to shut up and move on. These days, we're happily collaborating, kvetching, and congratulating one another on our many accomplishments in work and life.

I don't mull over that year very often, perhaps only around its anniversary. Lately, I think about this experience fondly, proud of how I overcame my fear and feelings of inadequacy, glad of my current situation. But honestly, I rarely think of it at all. Which is as it should be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Contract!

So much for all those tears. My book has been approved by both editorial boards and the contract is in the mail.

I am over the moon.

I have a lot of revising to do over the next two months, plus subvention grants to apply for to help pay for those thirteen half-tone images. 

But now we're talking publishing-speak: half-tones, word count, permissions. Delightful! I can't wait to talk cover images.

These will be the happiest revisions I've ever done. Even the index (I say that now, but...Oh come on, can't I just be happy today?). Yes, even the index! (I will now start accepting suggestions of professional indexers).

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ad Unguem

So I continue to hope, and with a slightly larger shred this time.

I've received my fourth and final reader's report from this press, and am delighted with the results. My initially skeptical and challenging reader was really won over by my revisions, and now enthusiastically recommends my book for publication, though not without a fair amount of fine tuning. This report is excellent: it pays close attention to the argument and is scrupulous in its attention to clarity and style, making several pointed suggestions for further stylistic improvements. The reader felt the book's argument was a bit speculative, but now believes strongly that the book should be published because it's still important to speculate about the things I've speculated about, and I seem to have speculated quite well. I kind of disagree, but I like that this reader readily admits that she (or he) can disagree with me but still appreciate my work and want to see it in print.

Thus I must write one more response--to this report, and the others, detailing what I've already done, and how I would prepare the book for publication--and even if it's really good, the editor tells me that it's not by any means a shoe-in with the press's internal board and its faculty editorial board because the readers still want a bit more polishing. But it sounds like I might be allowed to foster a bit more cautious optimism than I had before. I mean, come on: would it even be possible for this reader to recommend a book for publication without suggesting more edits and changes? This reader pays attention to everything. And that's a good thing because it means that this book will be polished ad unguem (to the fingertips. Horace, Ars Poetica 294). Everything plus an updated CV is due Monday.

Happy fourth-of-July weekend response-writing to me. This is my third to this particular press, by the way. And I still want them to take my book. (Please).

That said, I am relieved and a bit elated because my toughest and most critical reader appreciated and liked my revisions. Her (or his) comments were much friendlier, even a little bit chatty, while at the same time detailed and precise, noting everything I'd done in direct response to her (or his) notes, and even adding several positive comments about other changes I'd made. And despite the many critical suggestions for final draft polishing, it is clear that this reader is now invested in the project and convinced of its merits. More importantly, many of the comments seemed to be engaging in a kind of dialogue with me, something I really feel I have earned. I'm sure over the next two weeks I'll care whether this press takes my book, but right now, what suffices is knowing that my revisions worked, not only for me, but for my most critical reader.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ah, Loiterer!

From George Herbert, The Temple (1633):

¶   Hope.

I Gave to Hope a watch of mine: but he
                                 An anchor gave to me.
Then an old prayer-book I did present:
                                 And he an optick sent.
With that I have a viall full of tears:
                                 But he a few green eares.
Ah Loyterer! I’le no more, no more I’le bring:
                                 I did expect a ring.

It has been exactly a year since I last wrote something in this space. Since then in my first book's trajectory, I have responded to two readers reports (one positive, one asking for revision), majorly revised my book, and waited while it was sent back to the second reader, and out to a new third reader. Here at work, I  received extremely strong and positive comments on my book manuscript from the senior colleagues in my field, passing my third-year review here with no criticisms and a unanimous vote. The entire manuscript review process, from when I first sent out the manuscript's first draft (August 2011) to receiving the final report on the revision, which ought to happen next week, but seems to be less and less likely to be positive, has taken eighteen months.

I want my watch, tears, and book back.

Partly this is because my second reader had the first draft of the manuscript for ten months, and then the revised manuscript for five. The third reader also took five months to read the revision, possibly not knowing that no more revisions were allowed. And now, because the new reader's largely positive and helpful report recommends publication but nevertheless raises doubts about the argument--many of which are nice points that can be clarified in the book, none of which actually change my argument--I am given the chance to write a totally convincing but gracious and non-defensive rebuttal of these doubts, which, if convincing, will be taken to the press's editorial board. But if the second reader decides the revision isn't good enough for publication, this exercise may be futile. I have this tiny shred of hope left that this will work. But it's really tiny, because the editor--who has been kind and supportive throughout this process--has finally conceded that it would be prudent for me to query other presses. And I need to do that now because this whole process took almost two years, and I've only got another two years at most before my tenure review. Which I am lucky to have only because this is my second tenure-track job. Still, I need a book under contract (ideally in proof stage) to get tenure here. I don't exactly have ample amounts of time.

If you are a reader of early modern English poetry like I am, then you know not to trust Hope very much at all. And part of me really wishes I could rewind the clock, travel back in time to a year ago, withdraw my book, and send it to a different press, averting the copious weeping I've done over this, especially in the last twenty-four hours.

Therefore, I want my watch, tears, and book back.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

Oh, hullo first book manuscript. Yes, it's been almost a year. Welcome to open heart surgery. I'll just take the anesthetic myself, though if you don't mind. I need it more than you.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Well hello, there.

Good god, it's been a long time since I've written anything in this space. I imagine it gathering virtual dust-bunnies and feeling somewhat sticky.

I'm not ready to give it up just yet, though, because I went back and re-read that post I did almost a year ago about time and realized that I might be able to work some of the ideas into a new piece I am writing about lyric atemporality for my second book project. Which means that blogging is actually good for me as a writer and as a scholar, and I should do more of it.

Yes, that's right, a second book project.  Did I mention I finished my book and sent it out to the editor? And got a thumbs up from the first reader? That was back in December, 2011. The second reader's report should arrive any day now. Any day now. Cue sound of crickets chirping. More chirping, and a large tumbleweed drifts across the somewhat less dusty blogscape.

So in the meantime, while I'm waiting, I've started working on my second book project. I got the idea very early in the morning on my walk to work and immediately texted Veralinda because I was worried it was too sexy or trendy and not scholarly enough, but she reassured me that I'd give it the solid, scholarly, classical treatment because she is that good a friend and colleague, so she knew exactly what I was on about and what my angle would be. So I started plotting it out and writing research proposals, and managed to score some funding from my university for a six week trip to the UK to do some research on the first three chapters. I've already written about fifteen pages of one of them, so I'm really excited to get to the British Library, V&A, Warburg Institute and Bodleian to start looking at dead things that move around in early modern literature. Yes, dead things: mummies, corpses on judgement day, rejunvenated bodies rising from Medea's cauldron, eunuchs (you'll have to read the unwritten chapter to understand exactly how these are dead things), and hopefully zombies and vampires, too, once I can find some (perhaps I will venture into Shakespearean appropriation in popular culture, a la Twelfth Night of the Living Dead). Or maybe I'll just write about some good old metempsychosis.

In a little over two weeks, I shall travel across the pond to share a gorgeous Victorian house (with a patio and a garden and a piano!) with two friends and colleagues in London (Veralinda and let's call her Margaret), where we will keep one another motivated to get serious work done during the day, and go out and see plays like The Duchess of Malfi and have pints and glasses of prosecco at night.

Unless, of course, I receive my second reader's report first. Then I'll be revising. And the dead can wait.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Voici venir les temps . . .

It's my last full day in the reading room at my favorite library, and I'm trying desperately to see all the rare books I need to see, and to consult all the sources at my fingertips before I have to go home, put the final touches on my manuscript and send it out. Oh, and I start teaching again in a month, so there's that grad course syllabus to prepare (Note to colleagues: Do NOT open an email from a student in the summer if the subject line is "Reading List." It will make you very unhappy).

I've just returned a wonderful, very rare manuscript bound in vellum and created by the Goldsmith's Company. It's in two books, the first dealing with weights and measures, assaying gold and silver and the mint. The second, which is more along my lines of research, lists precious stones, and describes where they are found and how they are valued. This was very helpful for a few references in my chapter on pearls, but also for the piece I hope to write on Jessica's turquoise ring in The Merchant of Venice.

The book ends with descriptions of some hard substances that are decidedly not precious stones, but were also of great value in the East and were traded as currency: lack and indigo (red and blue pigments), ambergris, musk, and civet (animal excretions used in perfumes and aphrodisiacs). These things interested me the most, in part because what are dyes, perfumes and aphrodisiacs doing in a book whose title is ye knowledge of all sortes of Gemmes or Praetious Stones, describing the Places wheare they growe, their Names, Coullors, Vertues & Valewes, According as they are bought from Marchant to Marchant worthy their Studie, which profess themselues Iuellers or are desirous to be made acquainted with those Secrets of Nature? In other words, how is indigo a precious stone? Yet from an early modern sensibility, the inclusion of pigments and perfuming materials with gems makes perfect sense, as all of these objects were traded, along with spices, "from Marchant to Marchant" in the East Indies, Persia and the Ottoman empire, and all of these items were employed together with sugar and spices and mummia (mummy) by apothecaries in the early modern pharmaceutical industry (if you can call it that).

I learned a lot from this manuscript, and because it's my last day at this beloved archive, was sorry to have to say goodbye to it, just as I'm sorry to have to say goodbye to my new friends.

I'm feeling melancholy and out of sorts today in general, as when anything stimulating and inspiring--not to mention frequently frustrating--comes to an end. We had our last seminar yesterday, and I am very grateful for the new colleagues and friends I've made, but oddly sad that it's over.

Despite all of the work I have to do today, I'm finding it rather challenging to concentrate, feeling a little distracted. I move around as if I were under a spell, or as if I had taken some powerful drug, my heart beating a little faster than usual. (It doesn't help that I've been reading about early modern aphrodisiacs and Sonnet 119 is thrumming through my head). I will be relieved to return to the regularity of daily life at home. But today everything is triste et beau comme une grande reposoir.