Monday, December 18, 2006

Onward and Upward

I finished my grading yesterday at 5:22pm (only 22 min. late) and dutifully entered my grades online (O brave new world).

I'm done! I'm done! I'm done!

Now all I've got left: one letter of recommendation and two articles to send out.

One of the articles reminds me of an old warrior I'm sending out to battle for the fourth time. He's got a limp, a cripped left arm, and is creased with scars from previous battles, but his spirit is high and his heart is true. Please, someone, give him a home in a distinguished scholarly journal. It is the last wish of his old age. Don't make him tilt another windmill. He's also bit like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the one who keeps getting his limbs chopped off but defiantly won't give in: "I'm invincible!"

The trouble is that I know this is probably my best piece of work to date: It got me a job and a postdoc and important connections. But because it has inspired such vehemently mixed reactions (I love it! I detest it!) it has been rejected three times already, twice with no explanation or readers reports. Thus I'm a bit scared to send it out again. If you reject him once more, at least send him home on his shield.

Tomorrow I leave for "God's Country" in the midwest. I haven't been home in 6 months so it will be good to see everyone again. My parents throw a big party on Dec. 25th for all the non-Christians in town. It's called "Our thing on the 25th." It's become a big deal because it is the only event of its kind in town, so the house is completely packed with people and we usually run out of bagels and lox and wine early on. I haven't been home on the 25th for three years (because of MLA) so it will be good to catch up with people, though I hope they don't notice how much weight I've gained since grad school (I was pretty emaciated from 2003-2005).

Then I'm back here for three days to recuperate. Then I'm off to Montreal where I will happily spend the first two weeks of the New Year. I can't wait.


Flavia said...

Wow, what an impressive record (of sorts) for that essay of yours! The good news is that if it was rejected twice without even having been sent to readers, that probably means that the journals in question simply thought it wasn't right for their particular readership or focus--that happens all the time in scholarly *book* publishing, and it isn't usually a judgment on the work's quality at all. What did the third journal say? Did you get useful feedback?

The initial reader for what became my first published article HATED it. He hated it so much that he provided me with--and I'm totally serious here--a THIRTEEN-PAGE, SINGLE-SPACED review. It wasn't clear, though, that what he hated was actually what I'd written (his review included, among other bizarre things, a lecture on the Vietnam War). Luckily, the editor of the journal obviously thought the reviewer was crazy, too, and told me to make whatever revisions I wanted to, and send it back.

Point being, there's often no rhyme or reason to how publishing decisions are made. I'm sure you know that already, and it sounds as though you have faith in your warrior--but I thought I'd pitch in with a little extra encouragement for him anyway.

Happy break--

Jonathan said...

Just keep sending it out. The letter will eventually arrive. Journals are bent toward mediocrity because most reviewers have no imagination and mostly think of themselves as police, rather that creative thinkers.

And if you've got some time when you're in Mtl, drop a line. We're here.

muse said...

Flavia and Jonathan-- Thanks so much for taking the time to write such encouraging words. I'm lucky to have colleagues like you two in the blogosphere.

Oddly, flavia, only the first journal (the prestigious SQ) took the time to give me very useful (and some un-useful) comments and reviews. They wanted me to revise and resubmit but were quite positive about its fate. I did everything they asked and then they rejected it on the basis of a) completely new problems they had with it and b) a completely incorrect and erroneous philological assumption. Turns out their comments were useful, but hurt the article. It took me another year to realize that, though.

The second and third journals-- both more generalist and admittedly difficult to get into as a no-name --sent it back with no comments. Which makes me think it wasn't a good fit.

Since the only journal to express interest was a "specialist" (Renaissance) journal, next on the list are a number of top specialist journals. And I've cut out the hideous introduction SQ wanted me to append because I've come to see that it delays the argument and even reads like dipping.

I do know that I could send it to a decent-but-not-highly-competitive journal and get it published. But I'm ambitious, so I'm working my way down the list.

Hope you're having fun at MLA, f, and I'll see you in Montreal, j!

Pantagruelle said...

Are you in Montréal now? I'm still at my parents, but my flight arrives back in town at 9:30pm on New Year's Eve. How long are you in town for? We must meet up, so send me an email...