Apropos of nothing, I find myself in need of an academic literary agent. I got it in my head that Penguin Classics should include some 15th and 16th century English texts in their backlist (Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes, or the Great Chronicle of London, for example) but I am tightly locked out in the cold because they do not take ‘unsolicited’ proposals which means they do take unsolicited proposals, just not from the unwashed public. One must convince additional intermediaries to take on your project and hand it over to the relevant people in the corporation. I suspect the best strategy here is to find someone I feel comfortable approaching, and who has successfully published in the series, and see if they will pass me on to their agent. I don’t, at the moment, know anyone who fits that profile.
Not that I actually need more work at the moment, but this is an idea that could go somewhere and it’s best to start early, than not at all.
I don’t know what others think of Richmond as a historian. My own opinion is certainly positive, but it isn’t his scholarship I want to mention; it’s his way with words. Reading a paper by Peter Coss gave me this quote that was just too good to keep to myself. This is in reference to the debate about ‘bastard feudalism.’
External affirmation is the fuel of academic progress and its natural corollary is external rejection. We write papers and submit them and, more often than not, we get reviews that run from gentle refusal to sadistic cruelty. I am more familiar with the first. I have now received something close to the second. I won’t use this entry to complain about that review. Frankly, it’s not constructive. The paper was turned down and there are really only three options for the rejected writer:
It’s becoming an irritating cliche that each new writing project shuns the lessons of experience and instead, dreams up some new pain. Some things get easier. New and harder things, take their place. Each new project drags along new company to mess with the routine I devised to accommodate the last bunch of unwelcome guests. I suppose if I was writing about the same thing, in the same way, all the time, this wouldn’t happen, but that would not build a useful academic career.
This new problem (and I refuse to adopt anything close to a positive, forward thinking vocabulary by calling this a ‘challenge’—to do so would be dishonest and patronizing to all involved). The new problem is that I am required, by the conditions of my editorial guidelines, to write a book chapter without the use of the first person, or its plural ‘we’, or any other gesture of self reference. Normally, this isn’t a problem. It is a problem now.
I have run into a rare form of writer’s block that isn’t usually covered in the literature. Apparently, I really don’t like writing about topics that, well, wind me up. Foolishly I wrote a conference paper last year on just such a red-button topic which I also submitted to a call-for-papers in an edited collection. That proposal was accepted and my personal deadline for submitting the draft is now so close that I am guaranteed to miss it (the editorial deadline is actually in late May, but I want it done, and out my door by early April).
My flailing and floundering is entirely down to my easily provoked tempter which makes it hard to write coherent and balanced prose. It is too easy to turn a nice argument into a laundry list of errors that will bore, or offend, most readers. I’m not entirely sure how to get out of this little pit that my bile has burned into the landscape but I must, and while I’m on the way, write another 5000 words while I’m at it.
What pushed me to this conclusion (that it’s my frustration with the ‘errors’ which prompted the paper in the first place) was this collection of pages put up by the University of Leicester that describe (in achingly sparse detail) the sharp-force trauma found on their Greyfriars skeleton.
Oh, and whatever you do, do not read the comments.
Writing for a conference audience is hard. You would think, for all the conference papers I have written over the years (the count is 6, if you include the forthcoming one), that this would get easier but It isn’t, yet.
The problem, or so it seems to me at the moment, is that you aren’t writing for a reader, you are writing for a listener and that means your structure and organization can’t follow the patterns you typically use in other writing.
I am working on something more substantial for PBS readers at the moment, but I just read something that required some thought, and thought ran to writing and here we are. I’ll take advantage of the aside function in the blog for this one to indicate its ‘superficial’ nature.
PBS was silent for a few days while Z and I visited some of my dispersed family before my trip overseas. Although I plan to write regularly each day until the actual move, most of that writing will stay in draft form. Writing needs to be a habit if any progress is expected but posting blog entries isn’t an essential step in the process.
I did get some nice books this week, so I will pick the easy route and write about that.
And this is why I will avoid reviewing in that genre in the future: If you can stand it, follow the link in the review comment to the authors’ cogent response.
*And in all honesty, I do come across as a bit of a jerk in my review*