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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.