15-min Improv Blogging

Call this an experimental post: I give myself 15 min, and I write whatever I write. When the timer goes off, I stop, edit very lightly, and publish.

Here goes.

1. I am reading “Bad Feminist” and enjoying it for the most part. I will have to reconsider my deep love for semicolons. Roxane Gay does very well with short sentences that would, in my case, be longer and connected by semicolons. By the way, if you never read John Scalzi’s “Lock In” (SPOILERS AHEAD!), he wrote it entirely without semicolons. I sort of liked the book, but as one commenter somewhere aptly said — it’s excellent in terms of world building, but the plot is thin. I greatly enjoyed the accompanying free novella “Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome.”

2. I am positively fatigued by all the review requests. I think I definitely did more than my fair share of refereeing this year. I attempted to count how many today, and got exhausted at the enormity of the task. I review for a great many journals and all the requests are in a Completed Reviews folder, but there are first and second reviews, so I would have to look at each to make sure I don’t double count… I took a 5-second look at the list and thought “Nah.” All I will say that the APS (American Physical Society) alone sends me at least one paper per month, which is just as well, because as I publish with them extensively. But they are hardly the only publisher I review for, and I probably review 1 paper per week or 3-4 per month. I think that may be too many for my current overall workload…

3. I am teaching a 100-student sophomore class in the spring, so that’s going to be fun, for the definition of fun being “occasionally excruciatingly painful.”

4. I have a pretty heavy travel schedule in the spring, mostly connected with the funding agencies that graciously give me money and now expect reports and/or service. I cannot say no as I am up for renewal, on which I  am really counting. The trips are 2-day for the most part. I have two weeklong overseas trips in the summer.  2015 hasn’t even started and I am already exhausted thinking of all the work ahead. I will also be becoming the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in mid 2015.

5. I promised my grad students 4 papers in the pipeline will be out by New Year. I am not sure how I will pull that off, but mid-January sounds plausible. Maybe.

6. Tomorrow is turkey day. We are going to our friends’ place for a party and potluck. Alas, I haven’t bought all the ingredients needed for cooking yet. I am counting on the overpriced store to have the needed vegetables in stock if my regular hunting grounds prove empty.

7. Fifteen minutes is a lot of time — who knew?

Stopped here with 40 seconds to spare. Now just for some light edits…

Happy Thanksgiving to US readers!



  1. I’ve been reading Roxane Gay’s work (on the internet, and her first book) for years. I heard her read “North Country” and it absolutely blew my mind (I think you can find it online). Gotta say I haven’t been able to make it through Bad Feminist. I’m glad it’s out there. There are essays I really enjoy…buy my own personal taste in nonfiction is more cohesive and literary. Or, on the otherside, actual feminist theory. Would like to hear more about it from you.

  2. I was just contemplating writing a post asking how many papers people review in a year. Since this semester started I’ve reviewed 7 papers and said no to one (journal I’ve never heard of). There’s usually a little push for more reviews at the beginning of the holidays, so I don’t think I’m done just yet.

    For the most part they’ve been good papers.

  3. Gwinne, I will post something once I am done. I do hear you and I think I know what you mean: some essays are wonderful, warm and funny and insightful and flowing beautifully. Others are surprisingly strained, with writing really cumbersome to follow, and the insights that form the core around which the essays center a bit… generic (my least favorite thus far is “Garish, Glorious Spectacles”). I am at about 1/3 of the book.

    Nicoleandmaggie, OK, you inspired me to go and actually count how many reviews I have actually done. In my Paper Review/Completed folder (when I submit a review and get email confirmation, correspondence for that paper moves from Pending to Completed) I have counted so far 24 different papers that I reviewed so far this year (so more than 2 new ones per month). All that weren’t rejected outright I get to see twice (original submission and revision), and occasionally 3 times.

    I currently have 3 waiting in the Pending folder (2 new, 1 resubmission), which presumably go in during December.

    So I think my 1/week or 4/month guesstimate was fairly accurate.

    Someone somewhere said that one should review as many as you have other people review of your work. For instance, if you publish X per year, with 2 or 3 referees each, you should probably review 2X or 3X if you are the senior author (young’uns don’t review much). I think I am over that and should probably cut back.
    This exercise also showed that I also do a fair bit of review for journals that are reputable but that I don’t really submit to (due to a combination of lower prestige/visibility than I like and long turnaround times). This is apparently where I should cut.

    (This was also a chance to notice a number of requests for letters and proposal review. Those are a lot of work too.)

  4. I read that advice too (yesterday, while I was contemplating review #7). But if I did that I would say no an awful lot. Maybe I’m not productive enough. More likely I don’t aim high enough so I’m not rejected enough(!)

    I don’t say no much because I am still working on my reputation, I like to do favors for people I like, I like feeling like I have some say in the areas I’m interested in (or less cynically, I like being able to make my area stronger!), and the main reason– if I want to go up for full someday I need to have been an assistant editor somewhere, and since I’m not really anybody special, the way I have been advised to do that by several editors is by being a good reviewer. My aim is for this not to happen until I need it to! Since I’m nobody special, that also means being an editor it will be harder for me to get reviewers and I hate nagging people with a violent passion. :/

    So now I say yes to any place I wouldn’t mind being an assistant editor for. (I also say yes places that pay me and I say yes to editors who write personal letters…)

  5. Two questions:

    1) How long does it usually take you to do a review? I take much less time than I did when I first started but am wondering about how long it takes you since you’re farther along.

    2) You posted something about a few months ago here
    about only a small percentage of collaborations working out long-term. Any advice/guidelines/rules of thumb that you use to cut things off when a collaboration doesn’t seem to be going anywhere?

  6. I’ve cut back on reviewing a lot because it was overwhelming me. I used to follow the senior author x 2-3 rule, but then someone told me they only review for editors who they know and that made me think: f*ck it. This year I’ve been somewhere in between those extremes. Almost always accept if I know the editor and then a couple others that look particularly interesting. Never accept one if I’ve got one on my desk to do and never ever accept one where the abstract looks boring because those will make you briefly hate living when the due date arrives.

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