Category Archives: publishing


When Medical Muckraking Fails

“The Man With the Muck Rake,” courtesy of National Archives UK

Everyone knows how muckraking is supposed to work.  An investigative reporter uncovers hidden wrongdoing; the public is outraged; and the authorities move quickly on behalf of justice and righteousness.  There can be failure at any of these points, of course.  Sometimes there is no outrage.  The timing of the story may be poor, or the media outlet might be too small to get any real attention.  If the target of the investigation …


The Big Lesson From Regnerus’s Bad Gay-Parenting Study

By this point in time it seems clear that something went really, really wrong with Mark Regnerus’s study arguing that gay and lesbian parents are bad parents. Regnerus claimed that gay and especially lesbian parents had too much “household instability” to make them a family form worth investing in (by which I assume Regnerus meant that such families deserve no state benefits or privileges). Immediately there were questions about the study and Social Science Research, the journal that published i…


6 Things Your Dissertation Director Wishes You Knew

(photo by Drew Coffman via Flickr/CC)

1. Only you can figure out how to manage your personal and emotional life; as advisers we can listen, challenge comfort, and offer guidance. The guidance we can offer most effectively is of the professional sort.

You must handle your domestic conflicts in the appropriate arena while keeping a check on how they affect your productivity.  Please don’t ask us to assist you with anything apart from your work too often, too regularly, or with too much of an empha…


My Husband on Emma Stone’s Bed in ‘Spider-Man’

Let me clarify that: my husband’s book–Poetry, An Introduction (fifth edition), published by Bedford/St. Martins–appears briefly but decidedly  in the scene where Spider-Man first shows up at her bedroom window. As the good high school student Stone plays, she has a couple of books displayed prominently on the bedspread and TA-DA! Michael’s is one of them.

I was delighted by the prospect of seeing this shot the moment a friend from marketing told us about it; I dragged us both to an early show. …


On Predatory Publishers: a Q&A With Jeffrey Beall

Jeffrey Beall

If your incoming flow of email spam looks anything like mine, it probably features a regular invitation to submit an article to a journal you have never heard of, or to be a part of its editorial board, or maybe even to edit the journal.  The names of the publishers vary, but the invitations usually look something like this one, which arrived last week.

Deae Carl Elliott,
I am very pleasure that you can read this letter. Given the achievement you made in your research field, w…


Reading, Writing, and Envy

(Photo by NeoGaboX via Flickr/CC)

I owe a great deal to envy. The first piece I ever sent out for publication I wrote only because a girl I went to college with had two poems printed in a small literary journal that I happened to come across in a tiny bookstore on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan’s East Village.

There I was, flipping through these thin pages after cranking out another paper for graduate school, and there was her name in print. It tripped some internal alarm signal, her name in prin…


Commenting, Moderation, and Provocation

Not everyone writes to provoke, but provocative writing is common in the blogosphere, including the segment of blogging for traditional news and opinion outlets. Editors’ goals for bloggers resemble their aims for columnists. Generally they want to hire someone whose edginess is both deniable and claimable—not one of our reporters, but one of our loosely affiliated thinkers.

That dynamic tension is mirrored in commenting policy.  Most provocative bloggers push buttons and boundaries in order to…


Summer Reading 2012

Grades are in; graduation photographs are posted on Facebook. Amanda Tinder Smith, erstwhile graduate candidate, is now Amanda Tinder Smith, Ph.D.–and will be starting work as a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall. Sam Ferrigno, B.A., has an internship at Yale University Press, where he’ll get to know Niamh Cunningham, who not only works at YUP but has completed the first year of her M.A. program in English at Yale. Next fall Lisa D is starting her M.F.A. at Colu…


Is Brainstorm Racist?

Is Brainstorm racist for publishing racist attacks?

I have been struggling with this question ever since my fellow blogger Naomi Shaefer Riley wrote a breathtakingly unfounded attack on graduate students working in Black Studies and went even further to call for the elimination of Black Studies all together. Normally I ignore the sort of blogs Ms. Shaefer Riley writes, even when they are about me. I ignore her mostly because I think there are far more important things to write about than blogger…


Dear President Herbst: Here’s What This UConn Professor Did Today

A little ceiling leak's gonna slow things down? Nah. (Photo by Sam Ferrigno)

UConn President Susan Herbst’s recent article in the Huffington Post defending the role of full-time scholars and teachers was encouraging to those of us who work at the place where she’s the new  boss. Herbst seems like she’s doing a good job: The last time she met me she remembered my name. Pretty much that’s all it takes to be my best friend.

Apart from spending too much time–as does everyone else–talking about sport…


12 Things Tenure-Track Faculty Can Learn From ‘The Hunger Games’

"During my comprehensives, they barely touched on Trollope. You're screwed, Katniss." (Still from official "Hunger Games" movie site. Click on the pic to get there.)

I saw The Hunger Games and hated it. The film version of The Hunger Games was more sentimental than Titanic, more misleadingly tough-chick than Pretty Woman, and less well-written than Happy Feet.

But I do believe that there are lessons to be learned from the movie, important ones, and ones, most crucially, that will make the cinema…


A Dartmouth ’79 Discusses That ‘Rolling Stone’ Article About Hazing

When I wrote my book about what it was like to be a student at Dartmouth—Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League—I wrote it from the perspective of someone who was an outsider: as a working class, Italian-French-Canadian kid whose parents had not graduated from high school and who had no idea what she was getting herself into when she signed up to start college in Hanover, NH. Recently out in paperback, Babes has done pretty well for a woman’s memoir, received surpr…


“How to Be an Academic Failure” Revisited

The problem started with a phone call from the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.  It was the winter of 2001, and the guy from the Loft was calling about an essay I had written called “How to Be an Academic Failure: An Introduction for Beginners.” That anyone had actually read that essay was a mild shock.  I had written it in a moment of self-loathing while on sabbatical in New Zealand, and it had appeared in an obscure, now-dead magazine called The Ruminator Review.   The greater shock, ho…


New Novelist, Great Book: Carole DeSanti

Yes, I know you’re busy and that already have plenty of books to read, but—trust me on this one—you must get a copy of Carole DeSanti’s new novel The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. All right, so don’t trust me: trust Publishers Weekly , Valerie Martin, Deborah Harkness, Sarah Blake, Mireille Guiliano, and Fay Weldon, all of whom love the book.

Weldon says DeSanti has written ” a book to you make you think,” calling it “a magnificent novel in scope and achievement” where “death does its worst, pas…


Goodbye, Anthony Shadid…

A dear college friend died yesterday while serving as a correspondent in Syria, reporting on the rebellion against the Syrian president.  He was 43.  The world knows Anthony as a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for International Reporting, whose stories painted a broader picture of the beauty and terror in war-torn countries in the Middle East.  He reported on war and conflicts in lands that now hold vital interest for the world.  Through Anthony’s reporting, we came to learn about the stru…


Screaming Mimi, the White House Intern

Here’s my new goal: I want to write a tell-all book and be widely celebrated for how well I keep secrets.

That’s a trick I’d really love to a master, like sawing the last thin remnants of a reputation in half and having it appear whole.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about Screaming Mimi, the JFK intern who decided to wait until everybody was dead (guess daughters don’t count, huh, Mimi?) and write a book with information nobody can prove but that fascinates us all. It doesn’t say much for he…


Faking It for the Dean

(Still from "Nacho Libre" at Movies Online)

A number of years ago, a university public-relations official approached me with an invitation. Her office was coordinating a series of columns called “Health Talk and You,” which were published in about 50 newspapers around the state. The columns were short, simple, and straightforward – about 500 words, she said. Would I be interested in taking part? Without giving the question much thought, I said yes.

Then I read her email more carefully. I had…


Privacy vs. Piracy

I asked my undergraduate assistant Sam to find out some information about terrariums (hey, I’m paying him out-of-pocket and besides, it’s for my next Hartford Courant column).

In an almost immediate response, Sam’s plaintive voice cried  from across the room, “Have you seen this weird ad on Wikipedia?”

Wikipedia is blocking access to its English language version in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act which, the Wiki folks argue, will lead to “Internet censorship” and “will cripple the Internet…


Freud, Marley, Scrooge, and Us

Alistair Sim as Scrooge; Xmas Morning

I had the great good fortune this year to write for Signet their introduction to the upcoming edition of A Christmas Carol.  I’ll admit that I was surprised to learn that the book began life as a polemic nonfiction project: a pamphlet to be titled “Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child,” written to draw attention to The Second Report (Trades and Manufactures) of the Children’s Employment Commission, by social reformer Dr. Thomas S…


Do You Annoy Your Editor? Real Life in Publishing, Part 7

In the seventh and final installment of the Real Life in Publishing Series, “Kate,” a smart young editor at a small but major publisher—let’s just say that many of you would sell your house and auction off your children to be published by this place—talks honestly about one of the toughest parts of her job (and, happily for her, now the job of her editorial assistants): Tempering and maintaining author expectations, especially when those authors are academics.

“One of the hardest things an edi…