Since embarking on my new book project on the Rhythm Club Fire, I’ve gotten questions about why I’d want to work on something so depressing, which is a blog for another day, but mainly they’ve been about what I’ll say. At this point, I cannot answer that question. None of us who has authored a book can, especially when we are so early in the process. So, I’ve come up with a metaphor that I think works, and one which people who’ve never written a book can understand.
“It’s like putting together a 500-piece puzzle,” I answer.
At the beginning is the idea, and all of those pieces of evidence.
In the early stages, you begin pulling together ideas that form the basic framework for the book.
Further into the project, some of the ideas begin to take shape.
Eventually, the day comes when you have figured it out and hooray!
As with any puzzle, it takes time and patience, but part of the joy is in the process–figuring out where the pieces fit. When it’s complete there’s a moment of euphoria, but it is fleeting.
When I drafted the new preface, I thought it would be interesting to provide a little background on the publishing history of Dixie’s Daughters. My justification for including it was that I wanted all of you out there who have struggled to get something published or may end up in that struggle, particularly graduate students and junior scholars who follow my work on Twitter and elsewhere, to know that you aren’t alone.
The struggle is real!!
My own road was such a bumpy one, I despaired that it might never happen. On the advice of my editor, however, what follows will not be in the revised edition. Nonetheless, I want to share it with you, in case it is of some comfort or inspiration.
So, for your amusement and edification, here it is:
“It may come as a surprise that Dixie’s Daughters was almost never published. Despite the fact that no less than twelve university presses expressed interest in publishing my dissertation, it was rough going. Three different university presses received the manuscript at various points in time. The editor at the first press I sent the manuscript to never sent it out to readers. Perhaps it served as a very robust coaster for whatever was in his coffee cup. A second more prestigious press did due diligence and I received readers’ reports. One of them supported publication, while the other demurred, citing scholarship that I should engage. The only problem was that said scholarship had yet to be published and remained a work-in-progress. A third regional press took it in for a proposed series that never materialized. After revisions, this press sat on the manuscript for an entire year, only to box it up and mail it to me with the note that it was no longer of interest. At my wit’s end, I reached out to Marjorie Spruill who suggested I work with Meredith Babb at the University Press of Florida. Meredith laid out the process for getting the book published, so I took the boxed up manuscript that had been returned to me and mailed it to her. Unchanged. Within two months I had the readers’ reports and a book contract and, it turned out, a new tenure-track job with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.”