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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Exeunt, stage left, with flourish.

Academic publishing, at least in the Humanities, is a process slower than watching redwood trees mature. Let's say you write an article -- which you'd better if you want to get tenure. You send it to a journal to see if they might want to publish it. They send it to three reviewers who are experts in the field. It takes the reviewers three months if you are lucky, six if you're not, to read the thing and make comments. Let's say they like it and recommend publication, but with a few revisions. So the journal sends you back the article with all their comments, and you spend three months working on the changes. You send back the revision. The editors of the journal read it, and invariably give you just a few more comments (which takes several months). So you take THOSE notes and tinker again, and send it back. And they like it! They will publish it!

In their Fall 2010 issue.

So you wait a year, and then they send you page proofs, and you go through the detailed editing phase, and FINALLY the article comes out. At which point it's been two years since you initially "finished" it, and sent it off for their consideration...which means you darn well better have been working on some things in the mean time, or you will never have the job security of tenure.

Because the process is so slow (and this doesn't even include what if the journal says "No" at some point in all these revisions--which they DO--and then you have to start the submission process all over again at another journal), we are all working on multiple writing projects at once.

EXCEPT. Except if we're working on a book.

I've been working on a book, and while I've published two articles based on some of the material for the book, the book itself has been my main focus for far longer than I'd like to admit. I've sent proposals for consideration to a number of publishers. Some have said "no," while others have asked to read the whole manuscript, hung onto it for six months or a year, and then said "no." The comments I've gotten back from the readings have been helpful, and I've been revising the manuscript all along, so that now I think it is a far better book than it was when I sent out that first proposal. So, now I'm sending it out again -- proposal and sample chapters -- to two publishers with extraordinarily high standards, and holding my breath to see what will happen. The packages go out today.

The manuscript is complete. Those gnawing voices at the back of my mind, the ones that say, "well, but you should really do this" or "you could tighten up that" or "read this giant stack of books to be sure you haven't missed anything important" -- those voices are all silent. I think the book is actually done. If either of these publishers ask to read the manuscript, I will send it to them, and wait for the comments that will inevitably come, suggesting changes, but at this particular moment, there are no changes that I can already think of that need to be made.

Which means that as I have just dropped my kids off at daycare, and I am nearing the end of writing this post, I have over six hours stretching in front of me that I need to figure out how to fill. I refuse to scrub the kitchen floor (though it needs it) on the grounds of my Daycare Policy -- which is that, if I'm going to pay someone to watch my kids, I need to spend the time doing something that no one else could do for me. If I'm going to clean while the kids are at daycare, I might as well just pay a cleaning person and take the kids to the lake for the day -- same money spent, more fun for us as a family.

I have a giant stack of material for my next book waiting in my study. "Stack" is actually a misnomer. It fills several shelves on the wall-o-bookcases in that room. So, I think I will start reading for the next book.

But it seems so strange, so anticlimactic. The first one isn't DONE. Not really. I don't know what else to do to it, but I don't have a contract for it. It's on pause in my brain. So I need to turn my attention elsewhere. I am sure 19th century travels in Japan and India and Egypt will be fascinating, and I have been champing at the bit to get to this new reading (actual guidebooks and travelogues written back then). But now that the moment is finally here, I feel like I need a little flourish.

Enter trumpets. Fanfare.

Or something to mark the occasion of changing tracks. This rambling post will have to be that. My mile marker. The moment that indicates the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

So that at least I will know that the difference between the cup of coffee I just drank while writing this post, and the one I am about to pour for myself to drink while opening a wonderful firsthand account of traveling through Japan in the 1880s...the difference between those two cups of coffee is everything.

Today, my second cup of coffee means: I am starting to write a new book.


Suz Broughton said...

Good luck. You sound like you have good displine (or whatever you would call what stopped you from scrubbing the floor.)
I am writing a sitcom treatment and I don't have the structure that you have. I need to get that, otherwise, everything else pushes it away.
Please keep us posted on you progress.
I also read Yvonne at "it had better be good" She lives in Ireland and is also writing a book. Here is the link if your are interested: http://ithadbetterbegood.blogspot.com/

bejewell said...

Yay, you! I will be the first in line to buy your new book, which I am absolutely positive will be published in short order. (Trying to think positive today.)

By the way? Totally dig your Day Care Philosophy. Dirty kitchen floors be damned!

Mr Lady said...

Dude, you're so awesome. Maybe if I drink a little more coffee....

Fawn said...

Dum dada DAH! I can hear the trumpets now, I really can!

Congratulations on finishing (don't think about later revisions, focus on FINISHING!) your first book!

Will you please tell us a little wee bit about it? Is it academic? Fiction? Thick? Destined to become a definitive textbook? The curiosity is totally KILLING me! (Hope I haven't trodden into some pre-publishing bad etiquette by asking...)

Tara R. said...

So very cool... good luck with the publication process and hopefully it won't take forever.
What is the next book about?

calicobebop said...

Wow! Congratulations! I've always wanted to write a novel but have been just too lazy. I'm inspired by your dedication - way to go!

nicole said...

i work at the type of publishing office you speak of, and i always find it so frustrating with how long some reviewers can take to finish reviewing a manuscript. yet, are very impatient when it comes to their own. good luck with the book, and your second one already sounds interesting! i hope it all goes quickly for you.

San Diego Momma said...

OK wait. So are you still sending queries for the first book?

Because you should! While you're working on the 2nd book.

And? Congrats. I've been working on my first book since '99. This is my year to finish it.

You should be proud!


OHmommy said...

See, again I missed one of life's important memos.

I need to start drinking coffee.

Wow to you. You amazing woman. I want to be you when I grow up.

Sandy C. said...

Congratulations! You must have incredible patience being able to endure this tenuous process.

Coffee huh? Perhaps I'm not drinking enough, but that can't be possible!

Steph said...

That daycare theory? That's pure genius. I'm totally borrowing it, if that's cool.

Also? I wish you a quick turnaround and heaps of success. You deserve it if for no other reason than St. Phanie deems it so.

MamaGeek said...

YAY you. Just wait and see what that THIRD cup of jo brings! VERY exciting!

LaskiGal said...

Major accomplishment. You've got to be feeling mighty fine. You did it. Finished. Done.

The book. I want to hear more. The English teacher in me can't help it (and I know you get that).

Congrats in a big, big way . . .

Stacy (mama-om) said...


I love your daycare policy!

MommyTime said...

Thank you all so much for your good wishes.

Bejewell, you are so kind. The book isn't fiction, though; it's an academic book and you might not be banging down any doors to read it. :)

Fawn, Tara, and Laskigal, It's an account of the relationships between how people defined what it meant to be middle class and how middle-class homes were designed and built in 19th century England. That's the book that's just finished -- full of floor plans, discussions of real homes (from autobiographical accounts), etc. The one I'm starting is on 19th century travel. I have lots of travel guides -- the very first generation of books for tourists -- as well as accounts of journeys to Japan, India, Egypt, Syria, and the European continent. I don't know what the points/arguments of this book will be as I'm just starting it, but I'm loving the archive I've collected (thanks to a grant) of tons of these old books. The advice about what to pack, how to behave, and so on, is fantastic.

San Diego Momma, oh, yes, I'm sending out proposals on the first as I start the second. For this kind of book, a proposal includes sample chapters, and that's what's on its way to editors right now. We'll see...

Jaina said...

Congratulations on finishing the book, even if it was anti-climatic. Best of luck on this new book!


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