Last summer 2013 I managed to finish two articles Iâd been working on for a long time. One is called âRewriting the American Astronaut from a Cross-cultural Perspective: Michael Lopez-Alegria in Manuel Huergaâs documentary film Son and Moon (2009)â and the otherâs title is âA Demolition Job: Scottish Masculinity and the Failure of the Utopian Tower Block in David Greigâs Play The Architect and Andrew OâHaganâs Novel Our Fathers.â
The reason why they took so long to write is that lately I have very little quality time for writing, which means that basically I can only find two or (with luck) three weeks in July/August to write in peace and quiet. Itâs very frustrating to see how productive a single week off email and teaching can be in comparison with the usual weeks during the course, with time split among a myriad little things.
Anyway, as any scholar knows, completing an article is just a small step in the long process of publishing. For both essays I had a certain idea of to which journal I wanted to send them. In the case of the article on Huergaâs atmospheric documentary on the manly Lopez-Alegria I chose first a journal on masculinities studies. They found it inappropriate, since they focus on sociology mainly, but pointed me in the direction of Culture, Society and Masculinities from the same Menâs Studies Press. This was fortunate, as the editor found me sympathetic reviewers. This week I have finished the revisions I was asked to introduce and Iâm very happy to say that the article is off my hands.
I did agree with the reviews though, as usual, they suggested several small modifications that have made my article grow to almost 10,000 words. The whole process is so slow that a film I mentioned in a footnote, not yet released, occupies now a long paragraph, as itâs become practically inevitable to discuss it regarding the astronaut on screen (I mean Gravity). All in all, my astronaut has kept me busy for about two and a half years, since I first saw Son & Moon and knew I had to write about it during Christmas 2011. The article will come out next Spring 2015, making this process in a total three and a half years long. Thatâs the happy story.
Now for the unhappy one. I first read Andrew OâHaganâs novel Our Fathers back in 2002 and saw David Greigâs acclaimed play The Architect at Teatre Lliure in January 2011. I can safely say, then, that the idea for the comparative article was already two and a half years old by the time I sat down to write it last August.
Funnily, I did check the website of the journal I had targeted for the word limit âalways my nightmare, as I tend to write much more than required. The web nonchalantly announced it would accept pieces with no specific word limit, so I let myself go, read like crazy about Le Corbusier, the residential blue-collar skyscraper and local council regulations in Scotland to end up with a piece 12,000 words long. To my immense mortification, the journal sent me back the essay claiming they only accepted articles up to 6,000 words. I did cut down my article to that sizeâŠ and sent it elsewhere. This second journal found my methodology âtoo Cultural Studies.â So, back to the first option.
To my surprise they asked me for the names of possible reviewers. I named two; they disagreed. I was ask for a third name, which I supplied. And, then, on the basis of not three but only two reviews they told me I had to rewrite and resubmit, with no guarantee of publication. They found my poor stumpy article under-theorised (no wonderâŠ).
I took a deep breath, spent 24 hours agonising about whether to go back to the drawing board or not and recalled a friendâs words. When they start asking for major revisionsâŠ the bloom is gone. So, I went back to the unpublishable 12,000 word version and emailed it to the Deposit Digital de Documents of my university, where it will soon be available online. Thatâs the unhappy story.
Whyâs that unhappy if I have made my work available and will hopefully reach a few dozen readers? Well, itâs unhappy because the time employed and the effort I made will count for nothing as regards my future research assessment by the Ministry. Itâs 2014, and this is due by the end of 2017 which means that Iâm already in a hurry. Iâll remind you, readers, that I need to have published five âqualityâ pieces in six years, which is why âthrowingâ on line this article Iâm telling you about feels very much like hitting myself in the face âhard.
On the other hand, experience tells me that when an article starts doing the rounds with difficulties and nothing has happened after one year, itâs better to move on, write another article (which is what Iâm doing these days), try my luck elsewhere. Online publication at my universityâs depository is, of course, a sort of consolation prize and much, much better than the proverbial drawer (or personal computer disk) where discarded papers used to die. Yet, tell the Ministry that.
Thereâs a third strange story. I emailed an article to a Spanish quality journal last November (2013). The editor did not acknowledge receiving it for a couple of months. I insisted, heâd been sick, poor thing. My article (he told me) would be considered for publication and I would get an answer by May 2014. June and early July came, still no answer. I checked their web: thereâs a new editor. I emailed her and it turns out theyâre restarting the journal as the former editor has retired. She suggested that I resubmit next November (thatâs 2014, one year gone from the original submission) when things start rolling. I said yes out of loyalty, as sheâs a friend, wondering whether the new journal will keep the good ratings of the old one.
I wonder how journal publishing works in the sciences, I really do. I doubt Nature or Science take so long to publish articles. I know everyone does what they can but on the whole we can safely say that in the Humanities publication lags about two years behind research. Itâs a long timeâŠ Not to mention how word limit conditions us, for not all ideas can be properly argued in under 6,000 words. As I know.
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