Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers
October-November 2009

vol. 5, no.9

Finishing a dissertation or book is difficult. After all, what kinds of positive associations do most of us have with something being over? If breaking up is hard to do, shouldn’t completing a research project be as well? As soon as you finish a dissertation or book, it is permanent, un-improvable, out there for anyone to condemn. Unfinished, it always has the possibility of greatness. It is easy to forget that one of the reasons that we don’t finish things is because we expose ourselves most profoundly when we do.

Something to remember, however, for those in the humanities at least, is that a dissertation is not the final product. The book is. And since you need to be able to tell publishers that your first book is not the same as your dissertation, but a significantly revised version of it, leaving the dissertation a bit rough around the edges may be a good idea. You will need something to work on in your first years out!
And for those of you trying to finish books? Try to remember that no book is your manifesto, or a referendum on your deepest identity. It is merely your organized thoughts on a certain topic at one point in time. Many an author has disagreed with his or her early work, and even said so, without ruining themselves. It is best to keep moving on to new projects, rather than fearfully revising one for ever.

Designing Titles

Arriving at a great book title is both necessary and difficult. The website Write and Publish Fiction has some great suggestions for how to go about this. Jason Moser recommends writing a paragraph about your book, selecting verbs and nouns from that paragraph, and then creating as many combinations with them as possible (without paying too much attention to whether they make sense). Several steps follow from there.

Blogging on the Workbook

A faculty member has been blogging since mid-September about working through Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. Carole Fungaroli Sargent, who assists authors at Georgetown in getting into print, aimed to send an article in twelve weeks, but ended up sending in only six because she took my advice on writing query letters. The journal urged her to submit her article much quicker so that it could be considered for a relevant issue. She has very interesting comments about the usefulness of the text and a great list of journals that publish articles on eighteenth-century literature. Check out the series of about twenty posts at her blog Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications at Georgetown University.

News from the Editor

The big news is that I am responsible for the downfall of Western civilization. My spring course, Model Memoirs: The Life Stories of International Fashion Models, has stirred the chattering classes into a fine froth, with about 300 hits on Google, with many tweets and blogs debating its merits, including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Modelinia, The Ink, CocoPerez, The Frisky, EqualWrites, etc. The smartest, and funniest, is by Jenna Sauers at Jezebel. In other news, see my article on District 9’s Intentions and the Road to Hell at Carina Ray’s e-symposium at the Zeleza Post.