Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Antoher Lesson in the Fabulous World of First Book Publication

Last night, I took a big step: I wrote to the kind and helpful editor of one of two equally fabulous presses that showed interest in my book, and told them that I was giving right of first refusal to the other. I had told him that I would be sending things off early in the fall semester, in time for tenure review, and so would have a decision around a month ago. And about a week and a half ago, he sent me a polite but unmistakable nudge. So, I spent half an hour drafting a letter that expressed the genuine difficulty I had had in making a choice, and a reason that I was going with the other press that could not be read as "they're better than you."**

So, here's what I learned, and I hope you all can benefit from it: DON'T TIP YOUR HAND TOO EARLY. When I spoke a month ago with two senior people with much publishing experience, they both told me that I should tell Second Press that I was still working, that I would be in touch soon, blah blah blah, and buy time for me to get a definite answer from First Press. That way, if I had to go to Second Press, they wouldn't be aware that they were getting a MS that another publisher had already rejected. Second Press is high-profile, and they don't need anyone's sloppy seconds. Unfortunately, I had already been too up-front with both presses about when the MS would be done, and when I would absolutely, positively send it out. So delaying for the extra three months that it would take to work its way through the review process of my by-a-nose first-choice press would have been seen as the transparent tactic it was. And that would not have made me look good.

On the one hand, I feel good about being honest. It's established a level of credibility and professionalism with this editor, and that will keep doors open for future projects. On the other hand, it's pretty firmly closed the door with this press for this project, which is too bad, because if First Press doesn't give me a contract, I go to Third Press, which, while good, is not in the same league as Second Press.

**That's actually true: the two presses are more or less equal in stature in the field and quality of product. Everyone I consulted with confirmed my opinion on this. They also, like me, were unanimous in giving a hair's-breadth edge to First Press, probably because its acquisitions editor has such a good reputation in the field.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

ID was right.

An update on last night's post about the missing books

So, today I came home to find a box on my doorstep. A media mail box, shipped on August 7, before any of my other boxes. Guess what was inside?

So, I'll make my admission public. Interesting Development was right about two things:

1) The order that boxes are shipped in have no bearing on the order they arrive in; and
2) My "panic first, think later" strategy for coping with minor crises may need revision.

Friday, August 22, 2008


So, it seems that all my boxes have arrived. A couple of them looked like bears had been at them somewhere in transit: ripped open and taped back shut. But it was only yesterday that I realized what was missing. First, a couple of exercise and yoga DVDs. Okay, that's too bad, but I hardly used them anyway. But here's the real kicker: the only actual books that were missing from my media mail box were four small paperback dicitonaries (Spanish, German, French, and Latin), and my friggin' copy of Lewis and Short!


(For those of you who are not medievalists, "Lewis and Short" is shorthand for one of two canonical Latin dictionaries. Over two thousand pages long, and very expensive. Ouch.)

So, somewhere out there, there's a postal employee doing both yoga and Latin. Bastard.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Fellowship Fifteen

This morning, for the first time in a little over a year, I stepped on a scale.  And it's official: over the course of my fellowship year, I gained about fifteen pounds.

Now, to be fair, it's possible that some of this was from the summer before I left Job City.  But most of it was surely due to Fellowship City's long winter, and my proximity to a place that made possibly the best scones I've ever had.

Two years ago, one of my colleagues came back from her fellowship year visibly fitter.  Apparently, she exercised three to four times a week in addition to nearly finishing her book manuscript.  Jeez.

Fortunately, I have a new secret weapon: A month ago, I went ahead and put much more on the credit card than I should have, and bought a new bike.  It is light, shifts like a dream, fits me perfectly, and is an absolute joy to ride.  In three days, I've put over 30 miles in it.  It's likely that some of the novelty will wear off.  But I'm about 20 minutes from getting on it again and riding the 4 miles to campus.

Fifteen pounds.  Yeesh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Just a short post to say that I'm alive, and back in Job City. All but two of my boxes have arrived so far, and those should be coming soon. After a couple days of tweaking, both my office and my apartment are in decent shape, though not everything is put away yet. I've been ruthless at throwing stuff away. I've had a couple of conversations about tenure review. And, in my biggest reality check: today I met with a new grad student.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has begun.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Greetings From Dustbunny Central

I want to assure you all that I'm not ignoring your comments or blogs. The last few days has been taken up with moving preparations, and in less than 24 hours, I'm off to the airport, headed home to Job City. This will be my last post for the next couple of days, but I'll be checking in as soon as possible. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of the first of many herds of dustbunnies that I've rounded up. I have a feeling that I'll be at this a while.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Eternal Promise of the New Semester

The period immediately before a semester begins provokes a mixture of emotions in me. On the one hand, I can look at it as the end of a teaching-free time, and the beginning of setting alarm clocks and grading. And this semester, in addition to the usual fun, I have to prepare a tenure file, and possibly serve on a search committee.

But on the other hand, there was a reason why I always looked forward to the beginning of a new school year or even a new semester when I was a was on the other side of the education equation. At the beginning, anything is possible. You can see ways to be more productive, get tons accomplished, be the student or scholar you want to be. It's a time of renewal.

So in that spirit, I present my research/project agenda for the upcoming semester, a set of goals to keep me inspired when the grading threatens to drown me:

1. Revise book MS according to the suggestions of senior readers, write conclusion, and send off to publishers. deadline: September 15

2. Devise preliminary grants resource for people in my department: how to identify grants, sample proposals, how to navigate the Office of University Research. deadline: September 15; revise and expand throughout semester

3. Work on organizing co-edited volume with experienced co-conspirator. 3a: Draw up a list of people to harass invite to contribute; 3b: harass encourage them. various and sundry deadlines.

4. Pull together my own contribution for said volume. deadline: December 31

5. Organize annual undergraduate competition for Outside Project. deadline: December 1

6. Think about conferences, or organizing panels for same.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but this should keep me plenty busy -- unfortunately, most of this stuff is frontloaded, due by the beginning of October.

What about the rest of you? Come on -- the untouched semester lies before us, gleaming with promise, utterly unsullied by reality.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Where do your books live?

I'm approaching the last week of packing and moving, and yesterday, I sent off the first box of books, one of three. With every book I picked up, I had to decide: Will this be best to have at home, or in my office?

Some of these decisions are easy. Big, bulky foreign language dictionaries live at home, where I'm most likely to need them; primary sources in English (a lot of Penguin editions) live in my office. But everything else is a crapshoot. Interesting monograph on a subject outside my research area? General surveys that I can use them to fill in a gap in a lecture?

Where do your books live?