[Msa-discuss] query re M/m editorships, and thoughts re vote on editorial length of tenure
jb2 at uw.edu
Tue Jan 30 17:43:04 EST 2018
This is in response to the vote on tenure of junior and senior editorial
roles/ tenure of editorial time. I'm asking us all this, even as M/m
editors will have things to say--if not time to say it.
I apologize for 1. a horribly long email and 2. not responding if there
was a previous thread of conversation on this. I have zero at stake in
this; I just truly care about the shape of editorial function and
First, I'd like to clarify the vocabulary: what are the respective
responsibilities of/distinctions (other who came in first) between
"junior" vs. "senior" editorial roles? Too, if something is put to a
vote at the journal, do editors have equal voting power; or is veto
power accorded the senior editor; or is something else the case? Is some
distinction being tacitly referred to beyond the training time? Is there
a charter for the journal nowadays?
Second, I take it that the current allocation of time and position is
currently : 2 years as junior/3 years as senior? and that what is being
voted on is the proposition of 2 years as junior/ 2 years as senior? (
I am capable of getting lots of things wrong, so please someone correct
me if that is one of them--I'm confused by the language of the vote's
rationale, and/or the underpinning reality.)
I think what follows is relevant even if what's at stake is simply the
total editorial time of tenure. And bottom line: I don't think an editor
gets up to speed in a year, however engaged, productive, and insomniac
they happen to be. It will take 2 years.
Third, it is my sense that 2 years in a senior role is not enough time
to have an impact on the shape of a journal: you come in (you're
"junior") and spend the first year or so working hard but also mostly
figuring out what goes where--a minimum of 1-2 years getting clear on
process (which means both learning about the mechanics of office
protocol alongside the immense task and honor of becoming an editor, as
in actually working with authors) all the while picking up the
transferred obligations of the office/editor that/who preceded you. This
can be the hardest part for a vigilant editor. You're also (hopefully)
learning from your fellow M/m editors, and it takes time to learn
languages. Even with amazing and vigilant outgoing editors and offices,
transferring offices is arduous; and hitches between the transfer of MSS
that are at any number of points along the editing pipeline are
inevitable. (And hitches can be very very bad for authors.)
OK. Those two years (or whatever the length of time is) are done, and
now you are "senior": you know what you're doing, what's where, and--at
long last my point--* can start really doing some of things that made
you apply for the position to begin with.* You're reading those essays
that come in over the transom, and going to conferences, and listening
to papers that knock you out, and soliciting authors of 20 minute
conference papers or what you will, fielding special issues, trying to
make special issues happen. Etc. Now--if a 4 year editorial tenure is
voted in-- you have 2 years to get those things in and published, and
then the office transfers to someone else. Some authors pony up right
away. Most don't. Some--bless us each and every--are overly optimistic
(and worth the wait). Then there are the readers you're bugging to pony
up reports, and who may have disappeared or have had unforeseen things
occur, and you as an editor know this is a great MS but it really needs
more work, and well, THAT was the wrong reader for this MS--and and and.
Oh yes: you're also in happy communication with the other offices, and
offering (calming) advice to a junior/incoming editor who is quite
possibly wondering whether they were insane to have said yes to what all
this really means, and you're showing them how it gets easier once they
are senior. Or they're telling you how great it is and you're wondering
how to do it that other way. Or etc.
Two years as senior is really a short time for shepherding a roster of
authors through to publication--and of course you have to let go, but
I'm talking about having time to have a serious crop of authors/projects
guided through and happy, before beginning the transition to your
successor, and not just throwing a bunch of stuff/authors at them and
walking away, leaving the new junior/incoming to sort out everything on
their own and deal with authors who may feel neglected.
I would think 2 years in junior role and 3 years in senior--or forget
the jr/sr: learning what you want to & can do and then doing it in the
course of 5 rather than 4 years-- would benefit the journal's profile
and an editor's abilities and chance to have an impact. And it's better
for authors, I would hope--they're the ones that this is really about.
Jumping between different editors is very difficult for an author. So my
sense is 5 year tenure is better than 4.
If an editor wants out early, that of course could happen. It's a tough
job and not everyone should be expected to take to it--and there can
(suddenly) be times when being an editor is not the thing one should be
I natter on about this in 3 capacities: 1. someone who was managing
editor of M/m back when the damn thing was born; I have seen and heard
(sic) a lot of things go wonky as well as well 2. someone who is pleased
and honored to be on the advisory board now--and who periodically
bothers our M/m editors with suggestions and requests and 3. someone who
has spent aprobably too much time in other editorial offices. I love
editing and editors and authors, not necessarily in that order. So I
defer to other voices--I'm genuinely curious what MSA folk think--and
applaud the past and current M/m editors --thank you, Debra Rae,
Christopher, Kritish--who have done good works, and labored to make
process more transparent, efficient, and enjoyable for all concerned.
(You folks may be the ones who are all for this new time of tenure.) And
thank you, managing editors: Caitlyn, John, and Matthew. You probably
are the ones who should be casting the final votes on all this. But
then, I'm biased.
Thanks again for your patience.
Best, Jessica Burstein
Department of English
Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
University of Washington
A101 Padelford Hall
Seattle, WA 98195-4330
Director, London Study Abroad Program. Amy Feldman-Bawarshi, Academic Counselor for the London Program, is in the Advising Office: Padelford A-2E, within A-2B.
Burstein Winter 2018 Office hours: Padelford A502, Tues/Thurs 11-12 and by appt.
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