Anatomy of an Article

This is an archival post from my previous blog, Techsophist. The article written about is in Moon CIty Review 2009 and the illustration for this post is “Aspasia Jane at the Crossroads” from the Rose O’Neill book, The Loves of Edwy.

I had a “surprise” article to write this summer with a co-author, and I’d like to reflect a bit on how it happened since this is a situation that will probably happen again when editing a collection or anthology. The fact that the article was planned at all was due to our original archival piece being dropped two months before sending the book to the printer. We could have persisted, but the time and goodwill cost made it not worth it at this time. We chose to shelve it and see if we could find another way at another time. We, the editors of this initial volume and our press, want at least one critical piece per volume in the book series to take advantage of the many unbelievably rich archives or collections housed in the Ozarks. In other words, the spot had to be filled, and filled with superior work. We wanted this first volume of Moon CIty Review: An Annual of Poetry, Story, Art, and Criticism to be a template of sorts for future volumes.

Luckily, the editor-in-chief for our small press has an intimate knowledge of available resources and after a bit of scouting, took me to the Rose O’Neill Museum in order to see if any of the art there looked promising for an archival piece. As he expected, I was strongly affected by her work. We saw several possible threads, choosing her political art from the suffrage movement and selected magazine/book art for this volume, and planned several other articles suitable for upcoming volumes. We (the editors for the book and for the press) approved this new article’s inclusion with the stipulation that it would be done in a timely manner by a grad student suggested by the editor-in-chief for the press who he said was a fast and good writer with an interest in gender studies. As editors, we were happy with that solution. Spring semester had ended and fast, reliable scholarly writers (as this grad student was said to be) were hard to come by. Making a nice publication credit possible for a grad student was also a plus. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the grad student had other commitments and I teamed up with my colleague to get the job done.

Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this article once started. It was an easy collaboration and the subject material added to the enjoyment. After all, it wasn’t as if I had entered the project cold. I had laid out the framework by selecting the photos, drawings, and prints (about 20) being analyzed and I had given some general direction of where a gender studies analysis could go. Now it was simply time to do it. My remaining quibble is about appearances and choices. As both an editor for the specific book and an associate editor for the press, does it look like I’m creating publication opportunities for myself at the expense of others? Well, maybe it does. However, I’m starting to learn that when putting together a book, there will be spots that require very specific pieces in order to balance the project as a whole. Sometimes those pieces will come “over the transom,” sometimes they can be invited, but the third situation is that you have a gaping hole in your book and you feel like the little red hen. Who will fill up this gaping hole? (Deafening silence, a few non-writing crickets in the distance…).

Ultimately, I had a responsibility to the book project and to the the press to do what I could to ensure that the project made it to press as its best possible self. We really needed that archival piece; it set the pace for future “Treasures from the Archives” sections. This was no time to mutter tut-tut or see it as someone else’s problem. Being an editor means it’s always your problem. If someone pulls out from a project or if a chapter author doesn’t come through, as editor, I believe it is your duty to ensure that the book remains whole and its best possible self. I’ve found out that this means, at times, filling the gap yourself. I now know that rather than an anomaly, this is part of what editors do. They fill in the gaps and keep the book alive.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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