Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Today's News...

Because I'm now the most boring blogger ever, and I can't come up with an interesting, topical title or an actual content-related thing to write about, I shall once again just report on my activities.

I suppose I'll do this in bulleted form:

  • I received the contract in the mail today. The deadline for the final manuscript is in early December. This is both exciting (there is an end in sight!) and liberating (I now have something real to work toward!) and horrifying. How is it possible that I'll have a book in press in December? When I put the proposal together, I really thought it would take me a couple of years before I was at this point. In many ways, this is much better (not in the least because I've got a contract): 1) I'm really very good with deadlines and I actually find them comforting, which I attribute to my deep dark past in which I thought I'd be a journalist; 2) with a deadline in place, it's possible to make solid plans. That said, this is going to be some fuck of a 9 months.
  • I just finished on catching up of grading of quiz-type things for one of my classes. There are a couple in there who really should think about being English majors - or at least minors. I've said as much in comments to each of them, and I hope that they find such an option palatable. While I resist encouraging students to go to grad school in English (as it's a fool's errand), I do think that the English major can be a viable one for undergraduates, and I do try to recruit a bit in my lower-level classes. At the same time, I wonder about the viability of this position. If these students stand out so much, who's to say that these students won't later come to me with dreams of grad school? And how can I encourage them in one breath and discourage them in the next? I don't know; I'm still working through this.
  • I also revised another chapter today. The problems with this chapter were completely different from the problems with the chapter I talked about in my last post. I've chosen to cut about four pages, and I've made many revisions for clarity. One thing that was interesting about looking at this chapter was that I had thought for a long time that it was one of the stongest, but in looking at it, I saw many, many flaws. It was a very "dissertation-y" chapter - there was a lot of garbage that dissertations produce - unnecessary theoretical wangling, unnecessary lit review. What was weird was that I remembered why I had included some of those things in the original version, and yet I knew that they were now totally wrong. This is not the first time that I've looked at this chapter, and I think that somehow the book contract has clarified my perception of it. Like I couldn't see it as a chapter in a book until the book thing was real. This, I suppose, is the best evidence I have to this point about my whole theory that one can't write a dissertation as an actual book. The dissertation requires things of one that are just not appropriate to a book manuscript. One is serving both not enough and too many masters - one is trying to prove that one should be admitted into a club and the readability of the prose and the incisiveness of the points is lost in that attempt to serve.
  • I'm still kind of freaked out by the possibility that they might get the whole thing and then decide to rescind the contract.
  • I got a great card from my mom today, in which she wrote (and this is an excerpt), "I am telling you from deep down in my heart, from the moment I held you - I knew you would do great things!" First, I've got to admit, this made me think of that moment in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Ollivander says that Voldemort did "great things." And then I wondered whether I was destined to do great things in the way of the Potter or in the way of the Voldemort. Because I'm a nerd. But then I thought, you know what my mom's greatest achievement in raising me is? It's that she made me believe I was capable of great things. I imagine many if not all parents think their kids will be great the first time they hold them. What my mom did that a lot of parents don't is she made me believe that I really could achieve greatness. That's what I think makes her probably one of the best moms in the history of moms - better than her mom, who didn't do that for her. As much as she doesn't get what I do, she believes in me so much. And she's always communicated that belief to me, and it's transferred into a belief in myself. That said, when I called her tonight to thank her for the card and to tell her most (minus the Harry Potter stuff) of what I've written here, and to tell her about receiving the actual contract, the first reaction that she had was, "so you're going to be crazy until December, right?" and so my mom is not some warm, fuzzy mom who doesn't tell it like it is, and you shouldn't get that idea about her. Rather, she tells it exactly like it is, and maybe that's what makes me believe her assessment of me more. Also, she did actually use the word "crazy," so clearly we have yet another endorsement of the pseudonym I've chosen.
  • In other news, I was really happy with the class that I taught today. I wish I could say more about it, but I can't without compromising the thin veil of pseudonymity that I still maintain. All I can say is, I think that it went very well, and I think that students were into it.
  • I wish I could remember where I put my watch. This is a bullet of blogging the lost.
  • I've still got that pornography post brewing. Look for that over spring break.
  • One of the things that was greatest about one of my classes on Tuesday was that my students confirmed once again my theory that all of those critics who say that literature no longer has the power to shock are totally wrong. I believe, as my students confirm, that literature has the power to shock in ways that are totally foreign and that fuck with your head. I need to find a more articulate way to present this theory, as I think that it's worth putting out there in more than blog form.
  • Question: so your editor asks you to provide him with names of people who will review your manuscript. Do you consult with the people whose names you give and ask if they'd be into it, or is this supposed to be a blind-review-ish sort of a thing? I feel like an idiot for not knowing this, but I figured y'all would know the answer.
  • I need to read Barthes' "Death of the Author" for class tomorrow, and I think I just can't make myself do it. It's probably not entirely necessary for me to reread it, but it would be good.
  • I also have more grading that I should do - must do - before tomorrow. I think I'm putting off until tomorrow what I should do today.
I think that's everything. Until tomorrow.


Unknown said...

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Such good news about the contract.

And your mom's sweet note brings tears--I love that confidence. I look forward to writing something that prophetic....

Finally, I just sent in some names. I was way too freaked out to ask permission first. I sent them too many--that was my insurance against my own fear that someone would say no...

Last of all, CONGRATULATIONS on the contract!! Hurrah!

helenesch said...

The comment about your mom brought on tears for me, too! My parents don't really get what I do either, but last year when I got tenure and my book was published, they were *SO* supportive and elated--it really felt wonderful. I think it was the book more than anything that they were really proud of. My mom actually read then entire thing, even though she never reads anything at all (let alone anything academic).

In any case, I wanted to answer your question about reviewers: I think you're not supposed to ask people before including their names on a list. Maybe some people do ask, but I was told that this was not advisable and that I shouldn't include on the list people who were on my dissertation committee. In fact, one committe member later told me that a press had asked her to review it (even though she wasn't on my list), but that she declined b/c she thought it would be inappropriate (I assume they didn't know she'd been on my dissertation committee).

I'm in philosophy, though I would think that the standards are similar in other areas of the humanities. Then again, this press was reviewing my manuscript *before* offering me a contract, so maybe that somehow makes a difference in how the process works (or what the expectations are).

By the way, I love your blog and often really enjoy the posts you say will be "boring"!

Sisyphus said...

On the one hand I hope you will do good things in the Potter fashion, but on the other, it would be more interesting for us reading your blog if you had the powers of Voldemort, no?

What did the contract look like?? How exciting! Was it gold plated with lots of big academic stamps and seals? (Don't disillusion me, I need it for survival.)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, man, sisyphus, you are a book-contract-seeker after my own heart....!

Greg Weeks said...

I don't see any problem with asking people, though I agree that dissertation committee members shouldn't be on the list. Book manuscripts aren't reviewed blindly anyway (at least not in the social sciences), so eventually the reviewers will know the author regardless.

Hilaire said...

For the record, I also just loved this post and your discussion of your mum brought tears, too. She sounds lovely. And your characterization of her is awesome.

Artistic Soul said...

In my field, you provide names of people and check with them first. If you don't check with them first, it's kind of seen as a slight and the reviews end up not so good. You want to pick folks that are well known for the subject area you're working with, but also ones who will be receptive to writing a good critical review. Hope that helps!

undine said...

Typically (in my field) you don't ask the potential reviewers first, since that could put them in an awkward position. Those reviewing manuscripts are asked whether they want to reveal their names to the author or not, and if the review is less than complimentary and you know the small pool of people from whom the reviewers were drawn, the situation could be awkward.

Greg Weeks said...

Undine brings up a good point--if you do ask, you want to be very sure about them first. And I should clarify that the reviewer knows the author but the reviewer remains anonymous if he/she wants.

krisluvswool said...

Congrats on the book contract. Also, I've thought this before (because my mom also sends me cards "signed" by my cat for birthdays, etc.,), but this reminds me: your mom and my mom should hang out. I swear, it's like they'd be best friends :)