Back to the Jungle with an Exciting New Project

I have been blogging since early 2010, for about 4 years on Academic Jungle and nearly 2 years (!) here on Xykademiqz.

For a while now, I have been mulling over the idea of collecting “The Best Of” or something along those lines into a book, simply because I think I have done some nice writing over the years. However, I can’t imagine this material would be of interest to a major publisher. I also don’t want to go the self-publishing route, mostly because I don’t know the first thing about marketing (and have too little time or inclination to learn).

So I contacted a long-time bloggy friend, Melanie R Nelson of Annorlunda Books (she sometimes comments here under a pseudonym). Annorlunda Books is a new publishing company that specializes in short pieces, but Melanie said she’d be happy to work with me on what promises to be a larger collection and is OK with me using a pseudonym. How’s Xena Y. Kademiqz for a pen name? (Am I even allowed to use Xena? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were copyrighted by the warrior-princess folks.)

Melanie also offered a bit of a warning: even though I already have the material, the editing will end up considerably more laborious than what I might expect.

Melanie was right.

The first thing I did was go to see how much material there was, and there was a lot. In a typical blogging year, I apparently write 60-80,000 words; to put the numbers in context, a good-sized novel (say, Scalzi’s “Redshirts”) is about 100,000 words. Therefore, I have the amount of text worth several novels that needs to be read, pared down, and edited (I have a PDF of 700+ pages with all the material pasted in a tiny font).  *gulp* It doesn’t help that I have an all-consuming day job…

It seems that we may do a series of shorter, novella-length (Melanie says <50,000 words) essay collections, which can be purchased individually or all together; I really like this option.

But the first question is one of focus, and this is where my dear readers will hopefully come to the rescue!

There are essays that I would definitely (edited: likely?) not include, such as anything too personal (talking about kids), anything too ranty, general immigrant experiences unrelated to academia, or any fluff posts (such as those including pics of produce or links to videos). I think that I would like to include the comics (some probably redrawn) to illustrate the sections, as appropriate. But I want to focus on the academic life and the specific challenges in the sciences and at research-intensive universities, because that’s what I know and because I seldom find what mainstream outlets like the CHE have to say on the academic life to be relevant to my experience. Academia is simply too large and too diverse to address everything. I am not trying to minimize the plight of adjuncts or the many ways in which some academics are exploited or mistreated (we have no adjuncts in my college; the few instructors we have don’t have PhDs, all have long-term contracts and benefits, and are well compensated). I will simply focus on the corner of academia that I know.

Below is a totally stream-of-consciousness list of possible foci, grouped in a way that is totally redundant and will certainly be rethought roughly many times:

  1. What we as professors do and how not to suck or be miserable at it:  teaching and grading; work with graduate students/advising; research (writing, getting grants, publishing, doing peer review), which perhaps deserves its own collection; presenting work at conferences; service
  2. Tenure: why it’s important, what it means, what is expected at research universities, what happens if you don’t get it, what happens after you get it
  3. Advice for graduate students and/or postocs: what you need to do to be successful in grad school, writing tips, job hunting advice (academia and beyond), why advisors do what they do
  4. Academic politics: job hunting from the search committee perspectives, working with colleagues/collaborators, service and actually finding something you want to do, saying no, making service  meaningful
  5. Women in science: challenges, success strategies, sexism, impostor syndrome, work-life balance

What say you, blogosphere? Would you want to read the book? Would you consider getting it for a colleague or a junior colleague? What would you most like to read about? Please leave a comment and/or vote in the poll here or on the side bar. 

 

17 comments

  1. I agree with TheGrinch – I find just about everything you have to say interesting and relevant to my work/life experience so I can’t choose.
    I love the idea of having a consolidated and edited piece about technical writing though. I haven’t liked most articles about writing that I’ve come across and I think your ideas would be quite helpful as a reference for students.

  2. I’d also choose “All” but I also wouldn’t leave out the general immigrant experience… it’s actually been very enlightening to me as an expat academic to find your experience similar to mine. I wouldn’t discount its relevance to visiting or expat scientists, particularly the entertaining/social integration stories.

  3. Like the other commenters, I wanted to choose ‘all the things’. You have the #1 (top) spot in my folder of academic bloggers. As a childless (though married) male academic, I enjoy and benefit from pretty much everything you write about, including topics like kids & immigrant experiences that are not directly applicable to my life but help me view others with empathy by seeing (academic) life from a different perspective.

  4. Thanks guys, you are awesome! Although now I am having an even harder time paring down according to topic… Maybe it should be like the academic Star Wars, with 6 (or 7!) episodes… 🙂

  5. Don’t waste your time on this stupid fucken bullshittio. All it’s gonna do is sap your energy and will for generating new blogge content. Female Science Professor tried to turn her blogge into a book, and the book went nowhere and her blogge is dead.

  6. CPP: I take any likeness to FSP as a compliment! 🙂

    But yeah, you are perhaps right.
    My husband says , “Where on earth are you going to find the time to work on a book? You are already busy non-stop. ”

    The thing is, I am actually looking forward to going down the memory lane. I did some reading this August (jetlag insomnia + no air-conditioning in room) and there are many really nice essays from the early days. I would like to dust them off and bring them back to life in a more readable form.

    Btw, unlike FSP, I have Melanie of Annorlunda Books as my secret weapon!

  7. Terrible use of your time. If you or others want to read your blogge archives, then just go ahead and do so. I can’t think of a worse use of limited creative bandwidth and intellectual energy than going back to blogge archives and making them more “readable” and combining them into a “book”.

    And commenters who are all like, “Oh, yes! Love your blogge! Would totally read your book! Do itte!” Maybe they really feel that way now, but they’re just blowing smoke up your asse. If they really want to read a bunch of your blogge archives, they can already do so now.

    Seriously. Don’t waste your time with this. You are a good blogger and you obviously enjoy it. Doing this is going to kill your enjoyment of blogging and kill your blogge.

  8. CPP is such a happy little ray of sunshine.

    I think there would be a market for an “advice for grad students in the sciences” book. I’m not in the physical sciences, but your posts seem dead on to me, and I can imagine buying a copy for my lab and letting the students browse it on their own. The women-in-science thing has been done ad nauseam imo, as has tenure. Your posts on research, tech writing etc. strike me as too specific for a stand alone book (although I enjoy reading them as blog posts).

    You have definitely filled FSP’s shoes on the internets. I really enjoy your blog posts, but if this is what you want to do, you should do it even if it means the blog goes (temporarily?) belly up.

  9. Just to set the record straight regarding FSP and books. I don’t think FSP stopping blogging has anything at all to do with her book. Her book was already there for purchase (she self-published through Lulu, I actually own a copy) when I started blogging in 2010. Her blog slowed down and then went dark years later, when she became department chair (or similar), as she didn’t feel it would be fair to the people around her if she kept sharing the daily events (I think a lot of people around her know she’s FSP or something along those lines, I don’t remember, but there’s a post to that effect in her archives).

    As for me slowing down with blogging on account of this book, I cannot imagine it will be worse than when I write grants and it’s total lockdown mode. In fact, my plan is to rummage through the archives and, while I am working on it the book, post some of the old stuff that doesn’t make the cut. There’s a ton! That’s my winter break project, to help keep me from going stir crazy.

    Thanks for your perspective, Anon! N&M, thanks — I am glad you enjoy my (decidedly low-tech & amateur) comics.

  10. FWIW, I bought a copy of FSP’s book, and enjoyed being able to read a carefully-selected collection of her writings that were organized by theme. I think I’d really like to read GMP/XYK’s writing like this too, since starting from the beginning of the blog and going through chronologically is just too much effort, so I never do it.

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