Academaze: Cover Reveal! Preorders Available!


It’s official! “Academaze” will be published on Monday, June 20th! Thanks to Susan Lavoie for the beautiful cover design and to Dora Dalton for editing services!

Preorders (for electronic version) are available through Amazon, GumRoad, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords!

The print book is not available for preorder, but you will definitely be able to order a copy on Monday, June 20th, likely through multiple channels. More info coming soon!

So, what’s the book about? From Annorlunda Books page:

Find Your Way through the Academic Maze

Academic life can be wonderful, but also daunting. This collection of essays and cartoons on life in academia provides an “insider’s guide” to the tenure track and beyond in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields at a major US research institution. Sydney Phlox, a pseudonymous tenured professor, takes the reader through the maze of academic life: from the job search, through the research, teaching, and service that form the core of academic work to the quest for work-life balance and the unique challenges faced by women in STEM. Along the way, Phlox shares the joys and tribulations of working with students and collaborators and navigating academic politics while trying to get papers published and grants funded.

And who’s this mysterious author with such an expertly crafted pen name, you ask?

Sydney Phlox is a professor at a large public research university in the US, working in one of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. She loves quantum mechanics, science fiction, and bad puns. She and her husband raise a prime number of unruly children and drive in the snow like champs. Phlox blogs and doodles at Xykademiqz.

The book turned out lovely. The print version is 339 pages, full of serious academic goodness. Essays offering advice on getting a job at a research university and learning to do it with success and a bit of flair are sprinkled with some lighter fare (!) — comics and attempts at humor or poetry, like this:

The book turned out great and I am really excited that it will be unleashed upon the world. Bear with me until that happens! 🙂

Many thanks to those of you who have signed up to be advance readers; Melanie Nelson of Annorlunda Books will be contacting you soon!

This post also concludes May-o MOFO, the month of daily blogging in May. I hope everyone found something they enjoyed reading!

Musings on Procrastination

It’s Memorial-weekend Sunday, so I should be allowed to not think about work, right? Well, it sort of… worked. DH, Smurf, and I spent some time at a local attraction, slathered in SP-50 Coppertone and working on our vitamin D reserves.

But, I have been thinking about procrastination today.

Why do I procrastinate? I see Eldest, who is a really conscientious kid when in comes to doing his school work. He has good study habits, which will serve him well in college.

I remember being very focused and not procrastinating in high school, doing my work and getting good grades. I also had  several extracurriculars that took a lot of time, but I was able to get everything done and still reliably got 7 hours of sleep each night.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I have to will myself to fill out forms for my kids’ summer camps (in my defense, these forms are inhumanely extensive). I won’t be late, but I will fill them out only a day or two before the deadline.

There is a response to the referees and the associated manuscript revisions that I should have worked on since early last week, but I keep avoiding it.

What has changed?

Part of it is that I am perpetually starved for both sleep and rejuvenating alone time.  When I was younger, I really had no obligations to anyone except myself; these days, I am expected to be things to people (parent, spouse, teacher, advisor, emergency contact, principal investigator). I am finally catching up at work in terms all the papers that have to go out or get revised and resubmitted; I cannot just drop work for weeks  because the summer is not endless and I don’t want to get into the proposal writings season with a backlog. As lyra211 says, “It’s terrifying how quickly it feels like academia can pass you by! Some of that pressure is self-imposed, but not all of it.”

Another part is that the work I do these days ranges from mind-numbingly boring to intellectually and possibly emotionally taxing. I didn’t feel work being taxing when I was younger possibly because I was my own sole focus. Now everything I do (or avoid doing) has repercussions on someone else.

Then there’s the clarity of goals. When I was younger, doing work was more like rock-climbing. You could see the pinnacle, you could see where you needed to put your foot next in order to get closer to the goal. (I originally misspelled “goal” as “goad”; what would Freud say about that?)

Working today is more like trying to not drown in a muddy swamp. You seem to recall that getting out of the swamp was the original idea, but you are not clear if that’s true any more and don’t remember which way the exit is supposed to be. Your limbs get tangled in vines, which pull you down and make it harder to move. So not sinking below the surface of the muddy water turns out to be the real goal on any given day.

Always Phlox Your Teeth Before Bed

Academaze will come out on June 20! Preorders will start on May 31st! Of course, I will share all the information here.

Today was a very busy day, plus a day of the monster headache… So nothing serious on the blog tonight.

The book will be under the pseudonym Sydney Phlox. (My publisher recommended I pick a pseudonym that sounds like a real name, so xykademiqz was out.)

I knew that I wanted a gender-neutral first name, so Riley and Sydney were at the top of my list. Why? I simply like them. Also, I am in a male-dominated field and I never write my first name on papers if I can help it, it’s always just first-name initial. If I can avoid being mentally downgraded before the referee gets to the abstract, I consider it a small victory. This is not me being paranoid. I know at least one female NAS member who swears by the same approach, which has served her well for decades. Besides, J.K. Rowling is J.K., and not Joanne for the same reason — people dismiss female writers as, you know, female. If you can get readers to give you a benefit of the doubt enough to read the book synopsis, that’s a small victory as well. (Not that I can write or sell books as well as J.K. Rowling.)

Besides, I really like my real first name, but I can’ use it. And if I can’t use it, why not be named like an awesome city?

[Edit: I can’t believe I forgot Sydney Bristow!]

The blog theme is black an purple, so for a  little while I thought it should be Lily Black or something similar. Then I decided to google possible names of different shades of the color purple.

Phlox jumped out as the best last-name contender of the bunch! [I didn’t want to be amethyst, fuchsia, or patriarch (!)] I urge you to look at the different names for greens, blues, blacks, etc. — it’s fascinating!

Anyway, this is my last name:


Phlox is also a common flower:


Aaaaaand, last but not least, Phlox is a character from Star Trek: Enterprise!

Purple perfection!

Academaze: Calling Advance Readers

Okay… I know the following is no one’s first choice for a blog topic, but we gotta do this. It won’t hurt too much, I promise!

The tentative release date for “Academaze” is a little over a month away. Melanie has demonstrated superhuman patience in working with me (thanks, Melanie!) and the collection is coming along nicely.

This is where I need your help.

If you would like to be an advance reader, please let me know. That means you get to read the book for free (most likely an e-book) in return for an honest review on your own blog and/or Amazon/Goodreads etc. If you already signed up on the Annorlunda page, thank you!  If not, please either leave a comment here with your contact info or email me at xykademiqz at gmail.

These early reviews are really important and helpful for the book to take off. Having early reviews shortly after the book appears will do wonders for making the book visible.

So if you like the blog, this will really help bring the writing and the doodles to a broader audience!

Many thanks… in advance! (As Darcy of Wilde Life says, “Pun always intended.”)

Da Book, It Lives!

The collection is nearly done and the blog will be returning to its irregularly scheduled programming next week.

The book is nice and tight, at circa 83k words. It will soon be off to graze on greener pastures , with editor Melanie R. Nelson of Annorlunda Books. If all goes well, we might be looking at an April release date!

Here’s a tentative high-level table of contents (i.e., chapter titles only). Each chapter has a number of essays in it and at least one cartoon, but usually several. I am pretty clear in the foreword that this is about my experiences at a research university and in the sciences, so its applicability may be somewhat limited.

Foreword (What the Book is About)
What Professors at Research Universities Actually Do
Academic Job Search
The Tenure Track
Teaching and Service
Grant Proposals and Funding
Working with Grad Students and Postdocs
Technical Writing with Junior Scientists
Peer Review of Papers and Grant Proposals
Giving Talks and Networking
Colleagues, Collaborators, and Academic Politics
Work-Life Balance
Women in STEM

There were a couple of changes that I realized I would have to make.

One is that I need a real-name-sounding pseudonym for indexing purposes. I have come up with one, and it’s pretty awesome; Eldest grudgingly helped while munching on peppered pistachios.

Another, where I would appreciate people’s input, is the title. I wanted to call the book “Academic Jungle,” like the old blog, but last year somebody self-published a book by the same title (I won’t link to it, you can find it on Amazon if you want; based on what I read of it, I don’t feel like I can recommend it). However, the book blurb sounds, on the surface, similar enough to what my book is about, that we don’t want to go there and get the two mixed.

So we need a new title. The subtitle will be along the lines of “Essays and Cartoons on Being a Professor at a Research University in the US.”

Here are some title suggestions for the book, more or less silly.

1) Xykademiqz (obviously awesome, even if it doesn’t mean anything)
2) Confessing on Professing (even I say “ugh!” to this one)
3) Acadreamia (upon googling, found out there is a design firm with this name)
4) I Dream of Academe (there seems to be a blog or something similar with this name)
5) Funkademia (there is a night club with that name; also, I am not funky at all)
6) Adventures in Academic Science (my favorite, although vaguely resembling the title of Janet Stemwedel’s blog)
7a) The Research University (would require massaging of the subtitle to something like Essays and Cartoons on Academic Science in the US)
7b) Adventures at a Research University (w/ same subtitle as above)
8) Academic Confidential (there is a similarly titled post in Inside Higher Ed)
9) STEMcademics (too vague? )
10) Momcademics (I don’t want to lead with the momminess of my existence)
11) I Have the Best Job in the World (rubbing it in much?)
12) Glass Ceiling in the Ivory Tower (would be OK if it were all about women in science, but it’s not; also, someone thought about it, found upon googling)
13) Granting Wishes (Eldest’s contribution; would be great if it were focused on grants)

What say you, blogosphere? Thoughts, suggestions? Favorites, least favorites?