Organizing Your Writing Projects & Deadlines

We’re all busy. Multitasking various professional and personal projects feels like the norm now, especially for most academics and freelancers I know.

I’ve worked with fifteen academic clients since I started editing full time. A few have had similar problems, particularly with deadline management and generous expectations of productivity among teaching, family, and other responsibilities. I address this head-on when opening negotiations with all clients. In our introductory emails or Skype chats, I ask about potential roadblocks in their schedules, bad writing habits, other ongoing projects or events, and anything else that will delay our work together. In a few cases, I literally had them look at their course syllabi or calendars while we Skyped to identify problem times.

Here are a few tips to help you better organize your work and time:

  1. When starting a project, talk to your spouse, partner, colleague, or friend(s) who’ll give you blunt advice. You don’t want hedging or sugarcoating. You want someone who knows you and your ways and who isn’t afraid to be honest. Show them your projected writing calendar and see if they think you can do it.
  2. Be realistic and brutally honest with yourself. If you know you have bad habits, just accept that the project might take a little longer than you’d like it to. If you’re currently teaching, look closely at your calendar to see if you’ll have grading or meetings happening when you’ve promised something to an editor. If your productivity is fickle, expect it to be—and then forgive yourself. When in doubt, assume there’ll be a delay and plan your work accordingly. A realistic writing schedule for you means a clear, predictable editorial calendar for me.
  3. Understand that writing projects often take more time than you expect—or want—them to. You’re not a machine churning out content. Life, work delays, and creative fatigue will happen, and sometimes you just need a break. Take it. Also, some projects need distance so your ideas and approaches can mature. The extra time might also allow you to get valuable feedback. As long as your editor knows this, the work should go smoothly.
  4. When revising or self-editing, ensure that you deliver later in the project what you’ve promised earlier in it. Other editors and I have read articles or book manuscripts that never address the issues the writers’ introductions mention. We write things out of order or at different times, so always review your work. Make sure your sections are cohesive, that you’re not repeating yourself (sometimes literally with the same sentences), or that you make the points you say you will.
  5. Find the balance between focused, distraction-free work and self-care breaks. My fellow academic editor Jane Jones has offered similar advice. “The longer you work, the more opportunities you have to be distracted,” she writes. “That’s why it’s important to start with a small goal—say 25 minutes.” Plan your work out in focused, manageable chunks.
  6. Most importantly…communicate with your editor. If you fall behind, you can work on a revised timeline for your project. The worst thing a client can do to me is disappear and keep me in limbo with the project. Eventually, I’ll move on to another client and might not be available when they get back in touch. I don’t want that to happen, so within reason I’m always happy to revise our timeline.

One of the reasons I have clients pay me a portion up front is to allow for delays and keep both sides engaged with the work. Some editors have stricter policies or sunset clauses to keep projects moving, so when in doubt, ask them. If you don’t complete the work by the agreed-upon time and haven’t decided on an alternate schedule or payment plan, you risk losing time and money on unfinished work. Freelancers like to be efficient because we have to be: finishing a project and then moving on to the next one keeps the line moving. Delays and poor communication stall the process.

Particularly when I’ve been a developmental editor, I’ve helped writers see—or fine-tune—their project’s timelines and organizing principles. This is where the coaching element of my editing work comes into play. After 15 years as an English and writing professor, I’ve worked with hundreds of writers on multiple versions of their projects. I solo edited one essay collection and I’m currently coediting another, and I’ve worked with a lot of professional writers on developing and expressing their ideas. If you want to work with me, I’ll ask you point-blank about schedules, possible delays, bad writing habits, and anything else that will impede the project.

Delays make things harder for both of us. An important part of my job is helping my writers anticipate them. Honest, open communication throughout the editing relationship is crucial. This starts before I edit the first sentence.

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Have an idea for another post on writing or editing topics? Let me know.

 

 

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How An Aerial View Can Help You

You have that novel or story collection you’ve written. Or that dissertation you defended and want to retool before moving forward. You have a completed work that you’ve spent a lot of time with, but you’re not sure what’s next. Do you shop it around to publishers?  Do you carve out pieces and pitch them? Do you ask friends to read it? How do you know if your work…works?

You can ask me to give you an aerial view.

Imagine having a beta reader who also notices grammatical issues, user-unfriendly sentence or paragraph structure, and wordiness—all from what my colleague Karen Conlin calls the 30,000 ft. level. This is the kind of thing an aerial view from an experienced editor can give you. Because these are generally comments-only reads, I can focus on the experience of moving through your work. I’m still reading like an editor, so I’m noticing clunky sentences, overstuffed paragraphs, and anything else that can slow down or confuse your reader. I don’t edit these, though; I simply make marginal notes.

I’ve done three of these aerial views, and I’ve enjoyed the work immensely. They were a refreshing change from line editing or proofreading. I’ve done a novel, a scholarly book being revised before resubmission, and a dissertation that the writer wanted to repurpose. I read these works interactively: I added comments, asked questions, and shared reactions as I was reading. Some were compliments about a good sentence or phrase; others were queries when I wasn’t sure about the structure, purpose, or message.

Here’s the rundown for each:

  • The novelist had been working on his book for a few years and needed new eyes on it. He told a good story about a group of middle-aged friends, but in spots he had too many flashbacks and struggled to signal them to the reader consistently. As an avid Faulkner and Woolf fan, I’ve read a lot of extended flashbacks in fiction. Some of this writers were set off in italics, and some weren’t. I suggested that he have a more regular style to avoid confusing his readers. Likewise, some parts had too much setup before the action and dialogue started; I suggested trimming some of these establishing descriptions. He also overdid some (potentially) dated references to 1960s’ and 1970s’ pop culture. The references were timely for his characters, but some felt forced and could have confused readers. I got him to think more fully about his target readership and how to keep them engaged. He later thanked me for my “good fresh reading and professional thoughts on the manuscript’s presentation.”

 

  • The first scholar was trying to apply feedback he’d gotten from his publisher: they wanted a revise-and-resubmit on a book about two 19th-century American writers. From my time as an English professor, I knew the era but not specifics about the writers he was discussing. He needed an educated nonspecialist reader like me who (1) could read the material from the perspective of someone who needed to learn it and (2) had written a book focusing on the relationship between two writers. The scholar had two lengthy chapters at the beginning that—while they gave important historical context—delayed his discussion of the two writers the book was about. I suggested that he condense these into one leaner, more useful chapter. He also tended to compartmentalize his analysis of the writers and his historical discussions. I suggested that he instead overlap them to improve his book’s cohesiveness and readability. Throughout, I also made suggestions for shortening sentences or breaking up paragraphs. He later applied my edits and resubmitted a leaner and much improved manuscript to the press.

 

  • The second scholar was revisiting her dissertation and didn’t want to go the traditional route of making it an academic book. Because I again acted as an educated nonspecialist, I was a good stand-in for an intellectually curious reader new to her work. The scholar had a lot of material and research, and I made several suggestions for repackaging it into blog posts and digital learning modules. Because she’d written the project at different times and cobbled parts together from notes and presentations, there was repetitive information and prose. (Such repetition is of course inevitable in long-term projects.) Because she didn’t have a sharp enough target audience in mind, her work was sometimes too general and sometimes too specialized. Because her research had spanned several years, many parts were essentially information dumps without a clear “why” or purpose. I noted these and other revisable issues in my comments and final report. She’s currently reworking her material and figuring out how to repackage it into a more user-friendly format.

 

In my final reports to the writers, I shared with them what I’d edit or flag if they wanted to hire me further. At least one is planning to hire me for the next stage.

Aerial views don’t take quite as long to do as line editing, but they’re not quick read-throughs. Each of these took me a few weeks because I spread out my reading to stay fresh. In a way, this work is editorial triage: we look at your book and identify problem areas. If you like what we’ve done, you can then hire us to copy edit material we’ve already read. It’s inevitable that I notice typos or edit-worthy writing issues when doing an aerial view, but I don’t do any editing. If I feel lost or disengaged in a section, I’ll tell you. If I see too many references to other works or ideas that splinter your focus, I’ll tell you. If I have to read a wordy sentence a few times to understand your meaning, I’ll tell you. And, if I notice strong writing techniques or effective choices of structure, I’ll tell you—to keep doing it.

Sometimes, the key first step in getting that novel or scholarly book published is getting objective feedback on the completed first version. An aerial view from someone like me can start showing you the path to get your work out there.

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Have an idea for another post on writing or editing topics? Let me know.

Communicating with Your Editor

Editing is a two-way street. Whether they’re doing developmental work on multiple versions of a project or a line-by-line edit on a finished piece, editors need to communicate with their writers regularly. Updates, questions, and reminders can keep the lines of communication open, especially if—like many freelance arrangements—it’s a remote job. One of the reasons I ask my clients who have book-length works to send me files for each chapter is so I can return edited pages promptly and identify problem areas. If I’m doing something wrong starting on page 3, I don’t want to learn about it for the first time on page 103.

It helps us tremendously when our writers do the same. Whenever I’m talking with a potential client about a project, I’m clear about what I will and won’t do as their editor. I’m also clear about how I’ll do the work, make comments, and return edited material to them. I want them to tell me exactly what they want so I know how to do the work. If they want a light edit to clean up some problem areas, I’ll avoid doing the heavier edits. This benefits everyone: the writer gets what they want, and I avoid excess unpaid work.

As the writer looking to hire an editor, you should express your expectations early to find your fit. If you’re unsure or concerned about the level of editing you’ll get, ask to see some sample edited pages. I was in this situation once: I over-edited a client’s work, in part because I have to keep reminding myself that I just don’t like how this sounds isn’t reason enough to make an edit. The client expressed her concerns via email. I saw what I’d done wrong and then only edited what needed to be edited. Early communication solved this problem before it became unmanageable. I’m glad she contacted me because it saved both of us a lot of work. Since then, I’ve offered to share the first few pages of my edits with clients.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if the editor doesn’t seem receptive to your needs. This might be a little tougher if you’re working with a publisher and one of their people over- or under-edits your material, but you can always contact your acquiring or managing editor to express your concerns. If there’s a chain of command, use it.

A writer friend has some advice based on a recent bad experience with a publisher’s copy editor: there were excessive edits, needless changes, and unprofessional queries and comments. She suggests communication with all involved parties, particularly if you feel the copy editor is overstepping their bounds. One issue was that the copy editor didn’t use the manuscript’s cheat sheet for stylistic and other conventions appropriate for the book, so there were a lot of edits and queries that needed to be reversed. If the publisher doesn’t have a cheat sheet for your book’s subject area, she suggests, ask to make your own. This last one is a great observation, so I’ll let her do the talking: 
We’re more than track changes on a document. You don’t have to like our work, and our copy editors deserve direct and respectful communication (like effective cheat sheets). But bad attitudes and poor comments are beyond the pale. Copy or screen shot them. Send them to editors. Stet what you need to stet. Move on.
As editors, we need to remember this when doing our work. Just because something doesn’t look or sound as we would make it look or sound doesn’t justify changing it.
 
I’ll add a few more pieces of advice:
  1. If you’re looking to hire an editor, be specific about what you do and don’t want done. No one wants their time or labor wasted, so establish what you want early.
  2. Some freelancers—myself included—offer to share a scope of work before beginning. This keeps all expectations, responsibilities, payments, and labor clear for both parties. If your editor hasn’t offered one, ask for it. If your editor doesn’t want to give you one, consider finding someone else. 
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask if the editor (1) can send some edited pages early in the process to make sure you’re getting what you want, (2) can put you in touch with recent clients, or (3) has a policy for handling unsatisfied clients. To me, any editor worth their salt should be willing to share excerpts of what they’ve done, client testimonials, or the options for ending the arrangement early.
  4. If you’ve already hired an editor and you don’t like what’s being done, speak up. In my case, the writer pointed to a few areas where I had obscured her point and stylistic choices just because I wanted tighter prose. I flagged what I’d done to remind myself not to do it again in the document.
Trust me: it’s also in your editor’s best interests to ensure the quality and quantity of the work. Communicating expectations or concerns from the beginning can help you realize whether you’ve found the right editor.

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Have an idea for another post on writing or editing topics? Let me know.

What I’ve Done & What I’ve Learned

Since I started editing in 2010, I’ve done a lot of different projects—some of which I never expected to do. I’ve worked on novels, a memoir, a multimillion dollar proposal from a defense contractor, religious history books, and a museum catalogue for an exhibit of Ethiopian religious devotionals, in addition to typical academic projects. The variety has kept things engaging, and for a few I was hired because I wasn’t an expert in the subject area. (Post on that coming soon.)

I’ve also edited my own essay collection, and I’m currently coediting another (Alt-Ac Career Day, with Kelly Baker). In this capacity, I’ve shuttled between the developmental editor helping writers figure out their content and structure and the copy editor suggesting corrections and revisions.

Like all editors, I offer different skill sets to my clients. Each project has taught me something about what I know, what I do well, and what I need to keep working on. Editors do things differently, and each of us brings particular skills and methods to our work.

It’s all about finding the right fit for you and your writing project. I know a few excellent developmental editors, for instance, who aren’t as strong with grammar or proofreading. And, for all my strengths and experience as an editor and proofreader, I struggle with handling formatting and citations, mostly because I find it plodding and don’t know enough about particular styles. I know editors who love this kind of work, so I’ve recommended them when someone contacts me needing help with citations.

I also keep learning that just because I don’t like how something sounds doesn’t mean I can edit it. The toughest trick to learn can be when not to edit. (I’ll save you the Spider-Man quote about power and responsibility, but we know the one I mean.)

In short, find your fit. When you find the right editor for you, your work and writing will improve. If you think I’m the right editor for you, contact me.

New Look

I’ve spent the past week or so tweaking & reorganizing this space. Take a look around and see what you think. I siloed my writing and guest posts to make things easier to find. I’m also planning some short pieces on various writing & editing topics.

And, of course, if you want to talk about how I can help you with developmental work, copy editing, proofreading, or an aerial view of your book, let me know

Logo & graphics by Kat Skills. See http://www.artconist.com/.

Editing and Proofreading Your Own Work

Editing and proofreading your own work is difficult. Even experienced writers struggle with it, because it’s hard to see the issues or errors in our own work—especially if it’s something we’ve worked on for months or years.

As my Twitter colleagues Karen Conlin, Mededitor, and others often remind us, “SpellCheck cannot save you.” (See hashtagged tweets here.) When editing others’ work, I’ve noticed “undeserved” when “underserved” was correct, or “Czech Republic” when—because of the time period being discussed—”Czechoslovakia” was right. I’ve also caught spacing or font color issues that the writers missed. That said, I won’t be going back to my own published writing to find what I missed in the proofing stage. We’ll leave well enough alone.

As much as I’d like every writer needing help to hire someone like me, I’ll take my head out of the clouds and give some advice on doing your own quality control. This can be difficult work, especially if you’re on the clock or dealing with a manuscript you’ve had for a long time. But it’s possible to improve your self-editing or -proofreading skills, such as by printing it out or taking breaks as the linked article suggests.

I’ve seen and gotten a lot of advice over the years, and I talk about this often with friends, clients, and former students. Here are some tips for handling your own quality control:

  1. Remember that writing and editing use different parts of your brain. It’s hard to do one when trying to do the other. Keep them separate as much as possible. I had students struggle when trying to write and then immediately self-edit; things went more smoothly once I told them to separate the activities. The same goes for editing and proofreading; keep them separate to do your best work.
  2. Allow as much time as you can to do the work. As we sometimes joke, the quickest way to spot a typo can be to hit SEND, so make sure what you’re sending is as correct as it can be.
  3. Slow down your reading as much as possible. Focus on how each word moves to the next one. If it helps, use a metronome app or tap your foot to get into a slow, purposeful rhythm. Keep following the rhythm.
  4. Focus your view as much as you can. MS Word and other programs have viewing options to remove menus, buttons, and other bells and whistles. Eliminate things that can distract your eyes from the text.
  5. Read the material out loud. It’s easier to catch your own errors and problem passages or constructions this way. If your sentences are too long or descriptive, you’ll find yourself losing focus or having to take breaths. If you have an error Spellcheck missed, it’s easier to catch it when you’re saying defiantly when you know that definitely is right.
  6. Disrupt your reading flow however you can. When editing, read your paragraphs out of order. When proofreading, go to the end and read your sentences in reverse order. Trick your brain into focusing sharply on the sentences and words, instead of just reading them in the intended order.

And, if it helps soothe your writer’s ego when revising your own work, remember that we editors need help with our work too.

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Have an idea for another post on writing or editing topics? Let me know.

Figuring Out the Puzzle

After I re-ran this popular guest post from last year, I tweeted a call for full-time faculty who’ve served on hiring committees to write a complementary piece from an insider’s perspective. Not surprisingly, Amy Lynch-Biniek took me up on it. She’s an associate professor of English at Kutztown U. Amy is a tireless advocate for fair labor conditions, and she’s been a strong supporter the nonprofit I co-run, PrecariCorps. She uses her privilege well in speaking out for adjunct faculty and other precarious members of academia. She coedited this great book, Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity, which is available in e-format here.

In short: If you’re in a position to do so, be like Amy. Adjuncts and graduate students especially need to hear tenured voices and see that you’re on their side.

Remember, faculty, grad students, administrators, and whoever else: I’m always happy to run guest posts. They can be helpful and career-oriented like Amy’s or this one from 2014. Or they can be critical of higher ed’s broken, exploitative labor practices and social system, like this and this gem from a few years ago. If you’re reading this, you know how to contact me. Do it.

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Figuring Out the Puzzle

Amy Lynch-Biniek


As I read Erling Ueland’s guest post from last year, “Addressing the Myths,” I found myself nodding along. Here, I hope to fill in some more pieces of the academic job search puzzle without simply repeating much of the good advice offered there.   

I’m a tenured associate professor. I spent ten years adjuncting before landing my current position. Once on the tenure line, I served as a member of several search committees. My advice and observations are grounded in those experiences, as well as in my work studying higher education’s labor system. I aim to be accurate and helpful, so please forgive any bluntness.

ABDs Do Get Hired…

I agree with Ueland that you can and should apply for positions when you are ABD. You may not make the committee’s initial list of top candidates, but that doesn’t mean you are out of the race. Most often, candidates at the top of the “invite to interview” list already have PhDs in hand. Even so, they also may have interviews at other schools. More than once, I’ve seen committees make offers to all three top candidates, only to find they’ve each already accepted positions elsewhere. In these cases, the committee goes back to the pile. An ABD who missed the first cut for the lack of degree may make the second cut. (In fact, this was the case in my own hiring. I’m lucky #4!)  

…But ABD Hires May Come with Strings Attached

Administration may have a policy that ABDs must complete the degree in a specific timeline. A contract may require you to complete the degree as soon as within an academic year, or as late as by the tenure application. Know what the clock is, and be honest with yourself about whether you can make the deadline. I completed my dissertation while working my first full-time, tenure-line job, and I would not recommend running that gauntlet to anyone. On the other hand, the job security was an enormous motivator to finish. I gained weight and gray hairs in the process, but I earned tenure as well.  

“Terminal Degree” May Mean More Than You Thought

Depending on your discipline, you may not think you need a doctorate. The MA, MFA, MS, or MLS has conventionally been accepted as the terminal degree in a few fields. A creative writing professor, for example, could be competitive with an MFA.  

As more and more PhDs are applying for adjunct positions, however, administrators have realized that they can insist upon a PhD, even if that is not typically the standard in the field. This may not be fair, but it’s a demand that the adjunctification of higher ed has made possible. If you have a Master’s degree, weigh carefully your desire for a tenure-track position and the time, labor, energy, and money required for a PhD.

Expectations for Scholarship

If you are ABD or a newly minted PhD, a hiring committee at a teaching-focused school may consider one or two publications in smaller journals significant. Even a couple of book reviews and some reference materials may be fine. If you’ve been on the market for a long while, though, or worked at other institutions, then a committee may expect you to have accomplished more. Your chapter in an anthology may impress, but your entry in that encyclopedia of Victorian poets may suddenly seem paltry.

If you’ve spent any time in academia, you know the system loves its hierarchies, and faculty can be snobbish. Recently, I put a book review on my CV. This project had taken time and research, and I considered it significant scholarship. A colleague suggested that I remove it from the section of my CV where journal articles live, creating  a new section called “Other Contributions.” I didn’t do that, but I did explain the significance of the work in my promotion letter. I made a case, too, for my “public” writing in blogs and news outlets. You may need to advocate for the work you do, as you can’t assume the scholars reading your CV will. When in doubt, ask someone who’s been there.

I’ve learned that a significant portion of academics construct the the scholarly ladder thusly, from the bottom up: reference works, blog posts, book reviews, peer-reviewed journal articles, chapters in anthologies, and books (or “monograph” if you’re feeling fancy). Where purely digital scholarship lives in this formula varies widely from discipline to discipline and department to department.

This, too, is not fair. If you’ve worked as an adjunct, you’ve likely had less time and fewer resources to devote to scholarship. Most faculty know that the first three items on the list are both intellectually valuable and in many cases more immediately useful to readers. They can also often be completed with limited resources. If you’re lucky enough to have an adjunct-ally or former adjunct on the hiring committee, this might be taken into account. Unfortunately, too many tenure-line faculty have no sense of the obstacles to publication that adjuncting brings.  

Addressing the Challenges of Adjunct Work

You might consider addressing the challenges of adjunct work head on, as our host Joe Fruscione did in his last cover letter in 2013. The approach he shared with me is one I can imagine a search committee being moved by: he emphasized the significance of his scholarship in light of the adjunct’s schedule he was keeping.

In my own interview for my current position, I was asked if I felt prepared for the 4/4 teaching load shared by all members of the teaching-focused university. I think I may have actually chuckled! Honestly, I think the description of my ability to juggle my dissertation with adjunct work at two or three colleges each semester made a convincing case that I was ready to handle the demands of the tenure line. It helped, of course, that the faculty involved in my interview were labor-conscious already.

So, I think that some faculty will be moved by addressing the challenges of adjunct work directly in a cover letter. A few, however, are bound to misunderstand thanks to their lack of experience adjuncting (and perhaps apathy). We’ve all read the posts and comments from tenure-line faculty who dismiss the descriptions of adjunct workloads, claiming that “we all work hard” and “we all have busy schedules,” betraying any understanding of the material differences in positions.

That said, it can’t hurt—and might help—to ask some tenured faculty for feedback on this section of your letter, especially if they have experience serving on hiring committees.

It’s easy to paint the tenured profs with a wide brush, as one-dimensional villains with tweed jackets, mostly because so many of us have refused to acknowledge or address the concerns of our adjunct colleagues, despite advocating for social justice beyond the academy. (You won’t get any “not all tenured professors” nonsense from me.) Even the most ignorant of professors are awakening to the broken nature of higher education’s labor system, since budget crisis rhetoric, increased workloads, and/or shrinking departments have come for us all. As non-tenure-track faculty unions grow in number and power, tenure-line faculty are being forced to acknowledge that the problems of adjunct faculty are linked to the problems of us all.

As a result, emphasizing the particular context in which adjuncts work, while noting the increasing demands on all faculty, can be a better a countermeasure to adjunct-bias now than it would have been ten years ago.

Find Your Fit

While you may be applying to every college with an opening, you will seem a better fit to the hiring committee if you can speak to features of the institution you find attractive. You might want any job, but they want to know why this one is the best fit for you. Learn about the department, its programs, its student population, and its extracurricular organizations and publications. Explain why you’re excited to work in these contexts and with these people. Ask questions that show you’ve done your research. Whatever you do, don’t say that the interviewing institution is a great “first stop” in your academic career. They’re interested in nurturing a colleague, not in preparing you for a job somewhere else.

You may be tempted to apply for a position that you aren’t particularly suited for, or one which you feel you can do well despite it being out of your specialty or experience. Maybe you take the time to recraft your letter and CV to show your ability to do such work, or to acknowledge directly that this is not your field. These are understandable moves, but they’re not always the best tactic.

When serving on committees, I’ve had to read through over a hundred applications for a single position. Looking through reams of paper between classes and meetings, faculty may look at these reworked CVs with a twinge of annoyance—or resentment. If the ad asks for a hard news journalism professor and you pitch your creative writing degree as a qualification for that work, you’re likely going on the “no” pile.  

That said, some applicants undersell their suitability. I’ve seen applicants for composition positions continue to pitch themselves as Medievalists or American Studies scholars (perhaps hoping the job teaching writing may one day allow them to teach in these areas again, too), not bothering to mention the two classes in composition pedagogy and theory they took in graduate school. If I’m on the committee, like your experience, and want to make a case for you to the other committee members, I need concrete lines on the CV and cover letter to point to. I need letters of reference that speak to your work in the area in question. Your identity and long-term hopes may lie in a different specialty, but your qualifications for the job at hand is the only case you need to make. When they have hundreds of applications to consider on a deadline, many committees won’t take the time to hunt out details you didn’t highlight.

One last piece of advice: where possible and practical, apply to institutions that share your sense of fair play and labor ethics. That is increasingly challenging in the modern, corporatized university, and certainly no institution is without its flaws. You can tell a lot about a college by the way it treats its graduate students and adjuncts, though. When I applied to the tenure track at Kutztown University, I did so in part because its faculty were unionized, it employed most adjuncts full-time with pay and benefits above the national average, and it did not take advantage of graduate students in the classroom. I knew that for those circumstances to exist, the tenure-line faculty must have fought for them. I assumed that the search committee might see me and my CV with this same spirit. I figured I might fit.

And if you get that tenure-line job, I hope you’ll remember every detail of the fight to get there, the broken scales and elitist ladders. I hope you’ll volunteer to serve on a hiring committee and be the voice that advocates for fair play.