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Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers April 2008

vol. 4, no. 3

I subscribe to an electronic discussion list for journal editors and I thought you all might be interested in knowing what is on editors’ minds these days.

The process of peer review has been discussed much of late. Several had funny stories to tell about what they see from their side of the fence during peer review. One editor received a referee (peer reviewer) report that treated the article as the work of a graduate student with a lot to learn about writing. Except that the author was a famous senior scholar! Another editor has regular experience with reviewers who advise authors to consult the work of so-and-so more carefully, when the author of that work is the author of the article. Still another writes that sometimes rejected authors demand other reviewers, little realizing that those they suggest as better reviewers were the ones who gave the negative review in the first place.

Quite a few editors stated that they don’t like to send unedited peer reviewer reports along to authors. Instead, they write their own reports to authors. That is, upon reading the peer reviewers’ recommendations, the editors combine the useful recommendations, delete the contradictory recommendations (where the reviewers disagree), and direct the authors’ revision efforts to the most important recommendations. They also exclude the “grumpy,” “harsh,” and “gratuitously mean” comments as well as “unrestrained snarkiness.” Not many editors do this extra work, but it’s a real boon for authors if they do. An editor also reminded us about the importance of calling peer review “anonymous review” not “blind review.”

An ongoing concern for editors is how long it takes to get reviews back to authors, with a consensus that four months should be plenty of time to get an article reviewed and make a decision about publication. If the journal has exceeded that time limit, authors are within their rights to let editors know that they are withdrawing their work and submitting it elsewhere. At the same time, editors were also concerned about authors submitting their articles to more than one journal at a time (which is verboten). Although simultaneous submission is not common, it causes huge problems when it happens. Some editors are considered whether offenders should be banned from submitting to their journals for several years. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is okay to simultaneously submit.

Useful Sites

Editrix is a blog for editors and editors at heart. At Editrix, language aficionados can find (among other things) discussions of the gray areas of editing, a video blog devoted to good English usage, love letters to punctuation marks, and the Colophon of the Week. They can also find interviews with editors, including yours truly.

CELJ Guidelines for Contributors provides concise and useful advice for scholarly authors planning on sending their work to academic journals. I highly recommend it.

Confessions of a Journal Editor by the editor of the Minnesota Review suggests how authors can avoid the sins of excessive citation, indirection, false difficulty, self-indulgence, and lazy language. Just be warned, he particularly hates the verb "complicates."

Quote Unquote

More great quotes from Flourish reader Lars Erik Larson:

"In actuality, no person, however rich or free of outside constraints, has time to write. True, some people have more money, energy, opportunity, or freedom from day-to-day duties than the rest of us. But nature abhors a vacuum, and each life, however privileged, must fill with something. And fill it does. By itself, all the time in the world will not make writing happen. . . . Writing only happens by writing, and only the person who writes the book can write the book.” -Rebecca McClanahan

“To be productive, we have to make writing part of our daily lives. The problem is that we view writing as a luxury, something special to allow ourselves as soon as we’ve taken care of the countless nagging duties that seem to come first.” -Sue Grafton

News from the Editor

I feel so fortunate. In addition to sending my writing workbook to the publisher (after ten years of development), I got a job! As some of you know, I left my position as the publications coordinator at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center in August in order to focus on writing and “go on the market” for a professorial position in literature. After interviewing with a number of universities, I have accepted an offer to start as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. I will be researching and teaching medieval and early modern African literature as well as the influence of African thought on the canon. It’s my dream job! Of course, it’s both thrilling and terrifying. But I am slowly getting ready for this new adventure. (I won’t be moving to the East Coast until August and my email address won’t be changing.)