Thursday, October 09, 2008

Day 28 (Round II) "In the trenches" (On the Road Again edition)

Here we go round again...

Off up outta here, at least for 72 hours. Editorial meeting in points back east: a day of travel, a day of meetings, another day of travel. Fortunately the course calendar and the competence of the teaching assistants meant no class-time need be lost--the worst thing about canceling an undergraduate class is not even the lost working-together time, it's the loss of continuity. Undergrads find it hard enough to concentrate when they have a class meeting every other day: give them five days off between meetings and they're forget that they're even in college, much less in this class. TA, with a couple of colleagues' backup, will run undergrad class Friday AM.

Editorial meeting is for this team-authored music appreciation textbook. I don't do particularly well with editorial third-parties at the best of times--though I love being edited by individuals whose competence I trust--and I really dislike the indirection and subjectivity that anonymous outside reviewers can bring to the assessment of a scholarly text. It's kind of like tenure votes: anonymity, no taking-responsibility for one's comments, and an entirely unreviewed opportunity to grind one's own particular perspectival axes. I reckon I'm a little too arrogant--and too scarred by years of graduate-school abuse--to trust the motives of some anonymous jamoke who isn't going to have to answer for his language.

This is a little different: because it's team-taught, and because it's a textbook, not a piece of interpretive scholarship, the process of along-the-way assessment is structured differently in order to address current concerns. Instead of sniping comments from anonymous reviewers who obviously are miffed that you either don't share their opinions or haven't read their idiosyncratic take on whatever topic, you get feedback from potential users of the textbook, responding to a fairly clear and concrete set of assessment questions aiming at the salability of the final publication.

And you know what? That's a better, more apposite, and damned sure more accountable assessment than whether or not a piece of interpretive writing concurs or disputes with some anonymous reviewer's prejudices du jour. So I'm not sorry to have the feedback: in a piece of contract writing, I accept that the parties making the final judgement about what's working or isn't have to be the people who are going to sell and/or use it.

On the other hand: this morning (travel day) is the first opportunity I've had to open the dozen-or-so documents containing reviewer comments. Not liking to read criticism of my writing, and not having time until today to respond in any way to any criticism, I just figured I'd save myself the stress (my stress level is quite high enough as it is, thanks).

So when I did finally get time to open the documents, I ran a quick multi-file word search for, first, the name of the genre I'm writing on, and, second, my own surname. Out of fifteen reviewers' multi-page documents, you know how many citations I found for either genre or surname?


One sentence of direct (albeit useful) feedback speaking specifically to my chunk of writing.

I can't help but feel that 3 days of my life would be better spent writing, than sitting in a conference room in NYC listening to other parties talk about other chunks over which I have no control.


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