Blogs to books: an opportunity or a big mistake? You decide.

Blogging in my dressing gown again!

From time to time, I’ve been encouraged to consider publishing a book comprised of blog posts at Historiann, plus (presumably!) some new, not-published-on-the-blog material.  While I’m always terribly flattered by the suggestion, I have real problems with this idea on a number of levels.

Maybe some (or most?) bloggers hope they’ll be the next Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame–the book about the blog that begat the book that begat the Nora Ephron movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep–I don’t know of too many books-from-blogs or Twitter feeds that are all that impressive or successful.  Most of them seem to me to be (like most blogs, perhaps) disposable celebutainment, “lifestyle” books in the Martha Stewart style, books about weird diets, or baby blogs turned into baby books.  Even  Julie and Julia was a pretty bad book–entertaining, but poorly written in large sections and only lightly edited, if at all, and it only made me wish I had followed the blog in real time.  (Ephron’s movie was the product of a larger and more mature imagination.)

In the main, my problems with the book-to-blog concept revolve around the fact that blogs are a particular genre of communication that I don’t think translate particularly well to other media, and maybe to print media in particular: Continue reading

Code Blue at Ferule and Fescue!

Drink up, then find another publisher

Friends, as you know I’m conferencing this weekend, but I’m wondering if some of you can offer some helpful advice and assistance to our friend Flavia at Ferule and Fescue.  As some of you may know, she’s enjoying a completely enviable summer in Rome, but that’s beside the point.  Last week, someone peed in her negroni, big time:

As you may recall, I’d been working with this press for two years. They first sent the manuscript to one outside reviewer, who had stern but encouraging words, so I revised according to her suggestions. They sent it to her again, and she was very happy with my revisions and recommended publication. Then they sent it to a second reviewer, who read the entire MS in three weeks and was highly critical–but he also seemed confused about the basic parameters of my project; he made lots of suggestions, but most of them were, at best, tangential to my topic. I was asked to address “at least some of” his concerns, and I did so to the extent that I felt I could while maintaining the integrity of the project. I also told the press very clearly what I had done, what I had not done, and why.

So after winter break they sent it back to him. . . and after more than four months he submitted a one-paragraph review, most of it cut-and-pasted from his previous review, saying that I hadn’t engaged sufficiently with his criticisms.

And that means that’s it for that press. The editor was quite apologetic, but explained that such a negative review tied the press’s hands and would make it hard for the editor to make a case to the publication board–even if the editor were to find a warmly receptive third reader. Continue reading

Can a textbook change your intellectual life?

Ben Hufbauer, an art historian at the University of Louisville,  has a really nice essay about his encounter with Richard Hofstadter’s The American Republic, which was co-authored by Daniel Aaron and William Miller (1959; rev. 1970).  It turned out to be Hofstadter’s final book, as he died just weeks after the publication of the revised edition in 1970.  Go read–Hufbauer makes a compelling case for the clarity and freshness of the approach by Hofstadter et. al. to narrative history, especially as he encounters it in the mid-1990s in an unlighted Nigerian university library:

I came across The American Republic almost by chance 24 years later, in the library of the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria. I was in Nigeria for five months with my wife as her research assistant as she studied Igbo masquerades for her doctorate. We lived in a small apartment a short distance from campus in a city that was at times hot almost beyond belief. We often only had power for a few hours a day, and in that un-air-conditioned state — when we weren’t doing ethnographic research — we read a lot to each other, often by candlelight.

Given the poverty and corruption of the country, and the fact that Nigeria suffered a military coup while we were there, it is perhaps not surprising that most of our reading was comfort fare — Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens. But one day as I was wandering the quiet stacks of the library with no lights and no air conditioning, I dimly saw on a bottom shelf two volumes by a historian I remembered liking for The American Political Tradition, which I’d read as an undergraduate. Continue reading

Grad school confidential: new article prize at the Journal of Women’s History!

We want YOUR article!

Mary Berkery, the Managing Editor of the JWH e-mailed me last month to help spread the word about a new graduate student article prize.  Here are the details:

Journal of Women’s History Graduate Student Article Prize

The Editorial Board of the Journal of Women’s History is proud to announce the initiation of a biennial prize for the best article manuscript in the field of women’s history authored by a graduate student.  Manuscripts in any chronological and geographical area are welcome.  We seek work that has broad significance for the field of women’s history in general by addressing issues that transcend the particulars of the case or by breaking new ground methodologically.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically, along with a cover letter specifying the author’s graduate advisor, program, and status (i.e., year in program, ABD, etc.), by March 1, 2012 to each member of the committee:  Durba Ghosh (dg256ATcornellDOTedu); Pamela Scully (pamelaDOTscullyATemoryDOTedu); and Judith Zinsser (zinssejpATmuohioDOTedu).

The winning author will receive $3000, and the article will be published in the Journal of Women’s History.  

Now, that is some serious do-re-mi, in addition to a very nice publication line on your CV, friends.  Check out the current issue here, which just happens to include a very generous review of my book in an essay by Rutgers University’s Jennifer Mittelstadt, “Women Participants in Armed Violence.”  Continue reading

Dear Tenured Radical,

I’d love to comment on your posts at Tenured Radical 3.0 more frequently, but your hosts at the Chronicle of Higher Education have made it very difficult for me.  At first, I used an old Disqus account–the Chronicle’s software recognized that account and let me post via that account earlier this summer.  Then last week, the Chronicle forced me to get a Chronicle account in order to post.  I did that, but now of course I can’t remember all of my login information, and since it’s about the eleventybillionth danged login I’ve created in order to engage in blog commentary and internet commerce, it all just seems too exhausting for me to cope with.

Why can’t I just comment over there under my username and my URL?  Is there any way the Chronicle software gurus could fix this?  Why all the super-secret, password-protected bullcrap?

One might think that the Chronicle wants us to log in so that they can monitor the tone of discussion on their articles and posts, but the comments over there don’t appear to be moderated any more than the comments on most mainstream U.S. online publications.  Some of the new commenters who have drifted over to TR 3.0  are bringing down the quality of conversation, and I wonder if some of your regular readers and commenters at Tenured Radical 2.0 would agree. Continue reading

Climb ev’ry mountain!

Squadratomagico has a nice description of how she came to have a solid draft of her second book:

Over the past two months, I pretty much doubled the size of my book manuscript. It went from readily fitting into a 1.5″ binder, with lots of extra room, to filling up a 2.5″ binder; I was writing about 4-5K words per week. There is more work to be done before I could even dream of sending it to a press — there are incomplete footnotes, directions to myself to amplify certain discussions, lots of polishing and streamlining to complete. In addition, over the past year I’ve been ruminating over a new dimension to my argument — a bigger, more exciting level of interpretation — and I need to integrate those ideas more thoroughly.

So, yes: there is a lot to do. But the fact remains that I have written a second book, even if only in draft. It was touch and go for a while, but I actually have a physical object now, a big pile of pages that I produced and that will someday be a bound volume with a cover and a title. For all those out there struggling: Continue reading

Simon Says, Goody Two-Shoes edition

Ah, the 1980s:  when fashionable men dared to wear eye shadow.

This video seems newly timely given the massive wiretapping scandal blowing up News Corporation.  Now that Rupert Murdoch and his empire look pretty weak, the long knives are out for him.  Roger Simon reports that nearly 30 years ago–perhaps to the soundtrack of an Adam Ant video–Murdoch said something racist at a dinner with Chicago Sun-Times reporters after he bought their newspaper:

Continue reading