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/.

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Killing the Hungry Ghosts

Cultural Capital Doesn't Pay the Rent

In honor of the ghosts circling around us this time of the year and it being Campus Equity Week, albeit low key as we ramp up for 2017, Bri Bolin writes a post-ack column about her movement through adjuncting and the wisdom she has from organizing inside and out of unions. She’s a brave woman in her outspokenness and in sharing her important story early on in mainstream media. Check out the links in her bio below after you read this her great contribution to our growing collection on this site.

Bri Bolin is a co-founder of PrecariCorps, a 501(c)(3) offering much-needed financial, emotional, and professional support to adjunct faculty. She worked as an adjunct for 11 years, organized for the last five, and earned her post-ac credentials in May 2016. She will receive her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology in May 2018. You can read more about her journey…

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My (Unsolicited) Thoughts on the Writing Task Force

Polstergeist

headbang

This summer, the university where I teach has seen fit to form a Task Force (caps both necessary and utterly not) on the teaching of writing.  Some professors “up the chain” in other departments feel dissatisfied with the quality of writing they get from students who have completed at least one semester of the required first-year writing courses.  I couldn’t agree more with their dissatisfaction, yet I couldn’t agree less with their methods of trying to remedy it.  The way this has come to pass feels more like shit rolling downhill than any authentic attempt at improvement, an Internal Affairs inquiry when what we need is actual professional collaboration.

The formation of the Task Force represents how much the university cares about writing across the curriculum and in all fields, ostensibly.  So let’s take a look at the evidence of that care and reflection, shall we?

The university cares so…

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The Honest Resume; or, My Resumeh

A big hat-tip to Gordon Haber for inspiring me to do this. His “Honest Resume” (see here) was hilarious, so I’m adding my own to the fold. There are those marketable skills for the real jobs we want…and then there are our thoughts about what those skills mean, how we got them, and what awesome, real-world skills we have.


 

My Resumeh

Joseph Fruscione

Education

1996: BA in English and Women’s Studies (double major) from the University of Delaware, New-ARK (not to be confused with or pronounced as New-erk, NJ). Good school, good education, good friends, and lots of good diner fries & coffee.

2005: PhD in English, from an institution that never ceases to overvalue itself, which I’ll still be paying off when the kid I’m waiting to adopt is paying off college loans.

Work Experience

1999-2014: During and after grad school, I continually deluded myself into thinking I’d get a tenure-track professorship teaching American literature and film…in a broken system that liked to keep me just where I was (Adjunct Land, population: 70+% of the American professoriate). Taught some fun writing, literature, and adaptation studies courses. Earned near-poverty level wages teaching 8-10 classes per year, often at two schools. Moonlighted as an editor and writing tutor. For a few years, was especially adept at chasing the carrot my departments kept dangling in front of me “for when a full-time position opens up.” Kept wondering why my schools had fewer new Assistant Professors but more and more (and more) provosts and other deanlets. Wrote a book (Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry), gave a lot of talks, went to conferences, reviewed books, mentored capstone projects, and otherwise walked the walk…until I walked away.

2014-??: Working as a freelance copy editor, proofreader, and writing consultant. Loving every minute of it so far…especially the parts about being paid for my time, being in a field with much upward potential, being able to take on all kinds of projects, and working at home. Teaching regular literature courses to retirees at a local bookstore. Enjoying a career of no regrets.

Skills

  • Rousing the rabble from the margins of academia
  • Saving seats on the Post-Ac Express for other academic escapees career changers
  • Moving deftly among my different cliques and fandoms on Twitter & Facebook
  • Bringing #fancy back for my social media friends & family
  • Knowing how much a perfectly placed meme can improve a blog post

Second Monocle

How I Even

  • Occasional unplugging
  • Black coffee
  • Irish whiskey (the aged-er, the better)
  • Ear plugs (when working, flying, or taking the train)
  • Aleve (when flying, taking long car trips, or dealing with tendonitis)
  • Listening to my dog snore while he sleeps on furniture he didn’t pay for
  • Hockey

Awards 

  • Graduate teaching award, spring 2003.
  • That’s about it.

Fears

  • Not making people laugh or think (or laugh and think)
  • Losing my wit
  • Losing my audience
  • Regretting my switch to post-ac (…yeah, that’s not going to happen)

POSTAC STATLER WALDORF

 

 

Rejection: or, “Thank you Sir! May I Have Another?”

Lady Spitfire is back. That #fancy party the Dean didn’t think it was appropriate to invite adjuncts to is all done, and she’s back to teaching…and getting needlessly snarky rejections from editors of academic journals. This time, she’s got some…strong opinions…about these kinds of messages.

We like Lady Spitfire around here.

Gosford Park meh


Rejection: or, “Thank you Sir! May I Have Another?”

Bullying and rejection. In junior high, I was a chubby little kid. Check that. I wasn’t pleasantly plump. I just went through a “husky” stage. Couple that with an enduring love of Bill Cosby sweaters, mullets, and multicolored rubber bands on my braces, and, well, I guess you could say that bullying and rejection became commonplace. As I grew older, I chalked it up to a rite of passage, something we all go through. I thought it would pass, and it did for the most part.

And then I entered academia.

gosford-park

Earlier this week, I answered a plethora of emails from students who all of a sudden cared about their grades at the eleventh hour, and a long-awaited response from an editor popped up. I pensively stared at the subject line for quite some time. History has shown that most related emails will end negatively. There is always that 10% rush of euphoria, but most of the time, I know it will be an “it’s not you; it’s me” response. This one was different, however. If there is such a thing as academic bullying, this baby fit the bill.

It started out civil enough. He even threw in a “Hi.” From there, it was all downhill. He said my article was crude, it underpinned the study, and reviewers would most likely receive a “short shift” critique of a much wider pedagogy. (Just for the record, I wrote about Writing Centers. Students could die from comma misusage. The struggle is real, people.) The editor went on to say my approaches were too infantile, and I should undoubtedly look elsewhere. He did end with “Best,” though, which I thought was nice touch.

Gosford Park_Maggie Smith_2001

As I added this charming note to my “You Suck” folder, I began to scan the others. You know, just for kicks and giggles to boost my self-esteem. Sadly, I began to see a pattern. Some jolly good highlights include:

“Your voice is not a good fit for this journal, but after substantial revisions [the entire piece], please feel free to submit again.” (All 5,000 words? Well, shit. I’ll get right on that.)

“Our submission process typically takes around six or seven months. However, feel free to withdraw at any time and submit elsewhere.” (It’s not you, it’s me.)

“This article is very intriguing, but it isn’t really right for us. Did you make yourself familiar with our mission before submitting? I would encourage that.” (Reading is overrated. I just sent this out cold. You were the first hit.)

“The piece reads more like a conference presentation rather than a fully developed article. You are operating at a pretty general level throughout, which will not be suitable for a freshman audience.” (How many 18 year olds are going to read this article? I’m guessing none.)

“Instead, you ought to search out more appropriate journals. I would like to offer suggestions for other journals to try, but honestly, the world you are writing to is not one I’m familiar with at all.” (I understand. You are a Writing Center Director, and this piece talks about Writing Center pedagogies. I can see how things could get fuzzy.)

“Your teaching observations [from WAY BACK IN 2011] are outdated. They must be reexamined to interact with the multicultural students of today.” (Kids change so much in three years. It’s like they are different people.)

“Thanks for your email. The journal is more oriented toward theoretical and historical perspectives on how humor and comedy work rather than pedagogical, so this is a special issue, and unfortunately your piece will not work.” (I may be not be special, but something tells me you didn’t win “Class Clown” in high school either.)

Perhaps I am being an oversensitive woman, no doubt attributed to seventh grade sock hop flashbacks, but I never found any of those comments helpful. Not even in the slightest bit.

You see, I am not writing these articles/conference papers for fun. Academia, at least through my humble experience, has simply been one hoop after another.

It began with choosing a school. From there, it mushroomed into endless assignments, qualifying portfolios, and the ever-popular thesis/dissertation. Anyone who has lived through a dissertation with quirky committee members has a story to tell. Drinking was most likely involved. If one survives the dissertation, it’s years of adjunct toiling, and for the lucky few, full-time work.

You think things would look up at point, but then it becomes the publish-or-perish game, which can last a good thirty-five years. And all for what? For a shitty little line on the curriculum vitae that maybe, just maybe, a handful of academics will read in an obscure journal.

gosford_3

My point? I believe I have one. Editors, be nice. As I see it, there are three kinder routes to choose from in rejection land.

  1. Just say no. Nancy Reagan was fond of this phrase; I still have the button on my jean jacket. You can add some bells and whistles in the paragraph, but a simple “It isn’t right for our journal” minus the smarminess would suffice.
  2. Offer advice. Constructive criticism isn’t an oxymoron. I have tweaked numerous pieces that went on to be accepted elsewhere because editors were kind enough to jot down a paragraph or two of useful recommendations.
  3. Suggest other journals. It’s sometimes not what you know but who you know. Again, I have received “positive” rejections in the sense that “We’re not digging it, but it could work in x, y, and z.” Some editors have included namedropping—“Say Steven relayed this message. We were friends in school.”

It’s these gestures, seemingly small and insignificant, that improve anyone’s experience in the dog-eat-dog publishing world.

As I have grown older, and definitely not wiser, I have learned that bullying and rejection are here to stay. It doesn’t make it right, much like people who wear Crocs and socks, but it is what it is. I would just hope that some journal editors, knowing we are all in the same boat, might interject a little more thoughtfulness and—gasp—manners into their responses. Academic writing is hard work. It is painstaking. Little glory to no is involved. However, there is a huge rhetorical difference between “Your misguided prose clearly doesn’t fit our scope” and “Your article might work at this journal.”

In the infamous words of Dick and Jane, at least the naughty, revised version in my head: “Don’t be a dick, Dick. Help Jane.”


I’ll end–a bit self-promotingly–with another gem Lady Spitfire shared with me backchannel: “Joe is not an asshole editor. Be like Joe, people.”

Get on it, editors.

 

Not Since 1998

Something happened today that hasn’t happened in 16 years: It was the first day of school, and I wasn’t there.

I’m thrilled about it.

When I decided that Spring 2014 would be my last-ever semester as a professor, I expected some weirdness—and not a little bittersweetness—around key times: when I taught my last first class in January, when I submitted my final grades in May, and when I’d ordinarily be prepping syllabi and checking class rosters in August. My final-final semester felt appropriately bittersweet: I was conscious from the first day of classes that this was it, that every teaching moment would be my last.

Now that it’s late August, I don’t feel wistful or confused. I feel hopeful about the new career path I’m walking. My social media feeds have been teeming with friends and (former) colleagues talking about their syllabi, book orders, beginning-of-year meetings, and so on. I’ve thought some about what I’d usually be doing at this point–meeting new students, going over readings and course policies, catching up with my work wife, seeing the typical “Look at me” performances of most students on the first day, watching freshmen being freshmen, and other typical things.

If I’m guilty of a bit of humblebragging, I apologize to the scores of frustrated adjuncts still on those hamster wheels universities love to keep them on. I have 15 First Days of the Year under my belt, yet I feel good that today is not the 16th. If it were, I would’ve again been hitting RESET on my career: same salary, same (low) level of power, same disrespect for my experience and seniority, same “You deserve a full-time position” platitudes from well meaning colleagues who haven’t been on the academic job market for a decade or more.

As The Consulting Editor, I’m not only riffing on Sherlock Holmes and betraying my bookish–nerdy tendencies. I’m also opening myself up to different kinds of projects and professional relationships in ways I couldn’t as an academic:

If I want to keep teaching classes about authors I love at a local bookstore, so be it.

If I want to volunteer to help organize an annual literary festival, great. 

If I want to write a short piece on Exorcist III for a colleague’s essay collection, I do…even if it means I have to watch this creepy–brilliant scene a few more times.

If I want to edit non–scholarly book manuscripts for good pay and even better experience, let’s start tracking the changes.

If I want to remind a potential client that my time has value and that I no longer need to do projects for “valuable CV experience” alone, I can (and have). 

If I want to collaborate with someone on adapting my favorite Melville work for film or television, I can (and have been). Seguid vuestro jefe.

If I want to write yet another blog post or article critical of American higher education, sign me up. (As if I’ve ever had a problem writing about such things.)

I only have to think, What will this pay? and Will it be interesting work?, as opposed to How will this look on my CV? or How will a department head or search committee chair value this experience?. I’ve always been flexible and well rounded professionally, and being many things to many people has been as fulfilling as it’s been easy.

***

Interlude: I’ve said it before, but I need to say it again: none of this would be possible if my lovely wife weren’t a very supportive and encouraging breadwinner. I know I’m luckier than other frustrated academics or budding freelancers, and I continue to do what I can to pay it forward. She’s not on Twitter, or I’d link to her handle. No worries, though: I probably tweet enough for two people.

***

I’ve also been able to ratchet up my advocacy on behalf of adjuncts and students—without any I hope a search committee doesn’t see these tweets and blog posts… fears. I’ve done great work with some activist colleagues I love and respect (such as that petition you’ve hopefully heard about by now). Starting this blog—thank you for the nudge, Katie Pryal—has been great, too. I’ve written a few of my own pieces, and I’ve run great guest posts so far about the decision to leave academia and the #fancy party reserved for full-time faculty. I’m always looking for more guest posts: contact me if you need to write, holler, or vent about something related to higher ed. (Expect one tomorrow about #CreepyFakeGuy.)

As I see it, I need to define today not as the absence of something I did for a decade and a half, but as the presence of possibility and future success. I have time–a lot of it, hopefully–to evolve as a freelancer. The end, as a much better and smarter writer has it, is in the beginning and lies far ahead.