Sugar, Spice, and All Things Nice

As some of you know, I'm co-editor of the new Pacific Studies series from the University of Nebraska Press. So I'm rather excited that our first book is now available:

Hawaiian by Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific by Joy Schulz

Lately I've been applying (and interviewing) for a new position in academic administration. It has been very interesting to assess where I want to be in the next few years and how I can best deploy my talents.

In the meantime, I've also been doing a lot more freelance writing. The process of pitching is something I've improved on over the years, but the most important lesson I learned came from Dan Kois, an editor I worked with at Slate. In an interview about the gender disparity of writers published in magazines, he said he receives (and rejects) pitches from men and women - but while a man whose pitch is rejected will come straight back with another, more often women will never try again.

When I heard that, it was like a lightbulb going on above my head. I had behaved in exactly that way. Submitting my (self-effacing, humble) pitch, and slinking off when it was rejected. Since then, I have persisted, and it has landed me more commissions. Of course, pitching brings its own anxieties: if they don't reply, should I follow up? As Gretchen Rubin has observed, "Yes comes right away, no never comes"

It often seems to be that way. Anyone who likes my idea, likes it immediately. Those who don't aren't likely to change their mind on repeated pestering. But it's also true that busy editors can overlook something, and a follow-up works. Or annoys them. One or the other. I also suspect there is a gendered aspect in play when it comes to editors too. The editors who leave me hanging with no reply at all are more often (although not always) women. Perhaps this is feminine conflict-avoidance at work. After all, it is far easier to ghost than engage. Sending a rejection risks getting drawn into an argument with the rejected writer (something I've experienced from the other side, as an editor). I also suspect women editors are more likely to get pushback from writers they reject, so it's a vicious cycle all round. Among the editors I regularly pitch, those who reply with instant rejections are all men. In fact, there is an editor at a major magazine who replies so fast with "no thanks" that I could just write to him anytime I need to check my email is working.

And sometimes these angles just treat me like a potato.


But not always. My group review of Erika Rappaport, Lizzie Collingham and James Walvin was the lead review in this week's Spectator.