It is a good thing that I don't work in a publish-or-perish job that relies on steady publication of my academic writing. Of course, if I did, I would have more academic work circulating in the world. If I did, I would have more academic writing to be in circulation.
Yesterday, we pulled a package out of the mailbox. I knew it was a book, but not the batch I had ordered from Amazon. The return address was vaguely familiar, but no one I knew well enough to be sending me a holiday gift.
Lo and behold, it was the collection of academic essays about female poets and myth, Women Versed in Myth, edited by Colleen S. Harris and Valerie Estelle Frankel, published by McFarland. I have an essay in the book, and last night I opened my contributor's copy. Better yet, I handed it to my spouse, who immediately read my essay and pronounced it good.
I tried to remember exactly when I wrote it--I knew it was several offices ago. Luckily I have this blog, and I was finishing the essay exactly four years ago. Several weeks after turning it in, I wrote this blog post about the process.
Later I would revise it. I was surprised to find out how strict the laws are about what parts of poetry one can quote and one can't. I thought that if I gave attribution, I could quote whatever I wanted. I had to get permission from the publisher. That included my poems, which I thought were mine. Nope--once they're published, particularly in book form, they are no longer mine.
At one point, I rewrote the essay taking out all the direct quotes from the poems. My first thought was that it couldn't be done. But then I forced myself to work my way through the resistance, and I came up with a good version of the essay. I sent the editor both versions and let her decide.
That, too, was several offices ago. The book has had many delays in publication, and at times, I've wondered if it would ever be published. I've been grateful that I didn't have tenure decisions awaiting this publication. And even if the essay had never been published, I'd have been happy to have written it.
Still, it's wonderful to hold the book in my hand. And this will likely be the last academic essay, at least for awhile. I don't have much more material waiting in the files, and I don't have time or the academic library to do the research that would be necessary to do much more with writing/revising literary criticism, at least not right now.