At long and painful last, that article I wouldn't shut up about has been accepted. As I've mentioned, this is the most difficult experience I've had getting something published. Some of that is just the random luck of the draw, but there may also be specific reasons this was such a tough sell.
First, it's on Shakespeare, on a hyper-canonical play, and it deals with some touchy political material. This means, on the one hand, that there are more people in the world with investments in the material than is usually true for the texts I write about, which perhaps makes pushback more likely. On the other hand, since it isn't my primary area of specialization, it's possible that I initially framed my argument in ways that struck others as naive--or that were only aslant or adjacent to the important existing critical conversations.
I do think that earlier versions of my essay were worthwhile and publishable--and that a few of the objections I got were unreasonable, not to say batshit crazy--but my last round of revisions really did lead to a mini-breakthrough, allowing me to synthesize two strands of argumentation whose relationship I had never previously been able to articulate. And doing that led me to a major realization about the argument of my second book.
So though I'm on record as hating the cult of "it was all worth it" and "now I'm so much better off," what with their haste to deny the lived reality of suffering and suckitude, it's also hard to regret that things turned out this way. That, I guess, is a larger motto for this blog: insisting on the shittiness of the past doesn't mean wallowing in that past--or denying its utility. Sucky things can make you stronger (and lead to non-sucky things), but they still suck.
(That's why you read my blog, right? For these philosophical gems?)
Anyway, as reminder and reality check for Older Flavia, when she's agonizing over the long gestation period of some future project, I thought I'd detail the timeline of this one--an article of not even 10,000 words--from conception to acceptance.
Notice a Thing
Run a quick MLA database search
See that someone Noticed my Thing 40 years ago and wrote a few paragraphs about it.
Boo: I'm not the first! But yay: no one's done anything interesting with it!
Accepted to a relevant-sounding SAA seminar
Spend a week doing enough research to write a 500-word abstract
Spend four weeks doing increasingly desperate research into increasingly esoteric fields
Cobble together 3,000 words for a speculative seminar paper
Receive a lot of enthusiastic seminar feedback
Someone I know slightly buttonholes me and tells me to publish it immediately.
GAAAAAAH. Like hell.
Admitted to a very different SAA seminar
Intend to do a ton of new research; instead just write a new introduction and conclusion.
Decide this framing opens up the topic more fruitfully
Do my literary-critical due diligence
Email strangers begging for evidence of what I feeeeeel to be true
Spend six weeks writing
Submit resulting essay to a journal
Receive two readers' reports: split decision
Journal requests a revise-and-resubmit
Submit to a different journal
Another split decision, but this time with a very encouraging editor
Revise lightly and resubmit
Unhappy reader still unhappy
New third reader has useful and targeted suggestions
Ambiguous communication from editor suggests he wants another revise-and-resubmit
Do a shit-ton of new historical research
Majorly restructure essay
Oops: turns out that ambiguous communication was a rejection!
Decide new version suits a journal I hadn't considered before
Desk-reject within two weeks (guess I was wrong)
Submit to a fourth journal
Receive two exceptionally helpful reports
Find self--nevertheless--demoralized by another R&R
April, May & June 2014
Avoid working on essay
Weep whenever I think about it
July & August 2014
Revise with excruciating pain
Send revisions to a friend
Receive new & different set of ideas for revision
Weep some more
Realize two of his suggestions might solve my most intractable problem
Revise some more
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
Wait, that's it?
Astonishing how something can be such a relief, and so anticlimactic, at the same time.