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.