Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Readers' reports

Well, my manuscript has been, since fall, and so very unexpectedly, with that very cool big UP. Finally today, both readers' reports were available.

The first reader could not enthuse enough about the project, saying various complimentary things, and indeed offering only one or two small and very do-able suggestions for enriching the book. I'm tempted to use the word "gushy," so relative-superlative-filled was this reader's response (stuff like "best X in my 30 years of working in the field," etc.) All very heady and gratifying, to be sure.

The second reader reported that s/he had stopped reading somewhere in chapter 2, unable to continue because I clearly have no idea how Equine Studies actually works, and said that there may be a good book somewhere in the project, but it will have to be substantially revised/ rethought in order to reveal that good book.

Ten years ago, that second report would have devastated me. Today, not so much, in part because I'm getting more and more to see that responses to academic writing are as subjective as responses to creative writing--and in part because I'm grateful to know what points I need to clarify and what terms I need to work through more carefully in order to ensure that my book is more persuasive and more solidly built. Seriously: I'd rather keep working and produce a stronger book.

The cool editor impressed me by hir equanimity about the whole thing: s/he asked me to think over the negative report, and to respond to its points, considering honestly whether the reader had misunderstood me or whether I ought to put some revision time in before s/he sends it out to a third reader. S/he said that s/he was inclined to put more weight on the positive review, in part because it was thorough (including having, you know, read the whole manuscript), but that I ought nevertheless to reflect on the critiques of the negative one. To be frank, the fact that this editor still wants to continue the conversation, and to send the manuscript to a third reader, is completely beyond my expectation. You may recall that I never thought this particular press would be interested in my book, because it doesn't necessarily announce itself as a Big Theoretical Book. So this is all gravy as far as I'm concerned.

Tomorrow, I'll print the negative report, and I'll start to look critically at my opening chapter to see how I can address/ clarify the points that seem problematic. I am nothing but the beneficiary here, no matter what happens: it's pretty cool that two scholars in my field have devoted serious scrutiny to my book. I'm feeling grateful. Not yet jazzed or motivated or all eye-of-the-tiger (too near the flagging end of the term for such frivolities), but grateful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


1. Just 24 hours before I take the Things to RSA, I wrote my paper. This seems to me to be an improvement over my recent "strategy," which is to write the paper on the plane or in the hotel room the night before the panel. But that course of action will prove, I suspect, more difficult with two Things to entertain.

2. For reasons that escape me, I just opened to an essay in the flagship creative writing program "journal"--a term I use loosely because that rag contains so little of practical or critical value that it really more resembles a bitchy tabloid than a serious publication. In any case, the essay was about sentences, in praise of sentences really, and how sentences can transport us. The essay's first sentence reads: "I cannot begin with essay without admitting that: I am an English teacher, and yet the one thing I loathe perhaps even more than algebra is grammar." And yes, that first sentence displays the fruits of the author's loathing. And yes, the whole freaking essay is rife with grammatical errors. The author claims that s/he's only recently come to appreciate that grammar (which s/he mystifyingly equates with "syntax") produces the rhapsodic effects s/he seeks in good literature. S/he might ponder that point a bit further....

Monday, March 19, 2012

Brought tears to my eyes.

The world is a beautiful place. I may be oversentimentalizing that sentence because I'm sick, but I stand by the principle.