Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quickest Rejection Ever

Scholarly journals are notorious for holding onto your submissions for way too long, keeping you in a sort of torturous limbo about whether or not you've got the "right stuff." (Sometimes I just need to throw in a little NKOTB to keep my spirits up). My most recent submission, however, was rejected at lightning speed: 8 days after I sent the manuscript off via e-mail, I received an e-mail back saying, "Thanks, but no no no thanks." In so many words. 

It could've been worse - they could've taken 2 or 3 or 4 or more months to let me know they'd rather pass. But it also could've been better, and not just b/c getting accepted (obviously!) would have been ideal. The comments that I received from the editor both seemed to miss the point of contributing new scholarship to the field and the topic of my article, which made yesterday not only disappointing but also totally frustrating and mildly infuriating. 

Let me illustrate with a produce example: 

I wrote my paper, we'll say, on the wilting of romaine lettuce. First, the editor of said journal responded that wilting is a "theme" only "fitfully" under discussion in the criticism about romaine lettuce. To which I would respond (were I able to respond), "Yes, and not even 'fitfully.' No one's talking about it, and it's useful. That's why I brought it up." The point of scholarly commentary, as I understand it, is to further the conversation about and understanding of the topic at hand by developing already existing avenues of discussion and introducing and exploring new ones

The other majorly dumb comment was that editor had hoped to read an in-depth discussion of why there are so few varieties of greens available in produce section. Um, yes, well, great - but that's not even remotely my topic! And, as Butcher so eloquently put it: "There are a ton of greens in the produce section." Indeed there are. (Iceberg, spring mix, field greens, raddichio, just to name a few.) 

He might as well have said he was hoping to read a piece on Sense and Sensibility rather than something about a contemporary American novel. 

Everyone's always talking about how helpful reviewer's comments can be in the writing process. But what about when they're not? All this did was tick me off. The only legitimate comments he made were that 1.  he doesn't think the topic is impt. enough to sustain article-length treatment - an opinion he's entitled to, but that I and the professor with whom I worked on the paper disagree (in fact, she keeps encouraging me to make the paper longer) and 2.  that I offer only a "pat" discussion of people's responses to wilted lettuce. 

The first I will have to simply ignore, and the second, well, I don't actually disagree with him. I had about 4 more pages of stuff on the topic, which my prof. said to cut - so I did. Who's right and who's wrong? Only time will tell: I'm going to take the advice a former professor gave me years ago and send the thing out again ASAP (though the places I'm looking at have slooooooow response times, and many of them require snail mail submission - boo, get into the 21st century!). 

The very first time I played this game, back in late 2008/early 2009, it took the journal I submitted to 3 months to tell me that they didn't even send my article to reviewers. It was like the hugest slap in the face, and I believe there were tears (and probably many). I was ready to chuck the thing in a drawer and forget about it. 

But my professor told me not to do it; he found a journal I could submit to via e-mail, making the process almost painless, and said to just send the thing out without making even one change. So I did it. And five days later, that journal wrote back - and they wanted my piece just as it was. Just goes to show: it's possible to get accepted even faster than you get rejected.

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