Monday, November 24, 2014

Editing, A Love Story in Four Subheads

1. What Love Has Got to Do With It

Hybrid Pedagogy published, on November 22, "Love in the Time of Peer Review," a tender evocation for peer review as the act of giving lovingly to academic colleagues the feedback needed to make a a journal submission better. The ten authors and reviewers who crafted the piece open, by way of bell hooks, with a reminder that education -- of which teaching, reviewing, and editing, are a part -- is an act of love:
Love, patience, kindness, humility, truth — we don’t often talk about these things in the academy. Even those of us who eschew discussion of “efficiency” and “effectiveness” in favor of “empowerment” often stop short of genuine affection. But education, at its core, is an act of love — it seeks to empower as its very nature. And this care fuels our desire to help each other become full agents in our own right. 
When we truly love, we humanize rather than normalize. Much of what the academy does — both in teaching and in scholarship — is about norms. Even our new wine ends up in old skins, as the norms of academic discourse dominate the dissemination of our work in journals, monographs, textbooks. But love does not “insist on its own way.” In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks advocates for “an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom” (207). Empowering another human to be a mindful agent in their own learning requires a great deal of patience, kindness, and determination. These things only coexist with conscientious effort. This is the work that we all do as we exist simultaneously as authors, editors, and students. 
As editors of Hybrid Pedagogy, ourselves also educators, we strive for love-as-peer-review. We seek to “give any author a voice,” bringing our voices to them in a meaningful and accessible way through a specific style of peer review. In this, we spread a little love around so that we leave the world in better shape than we found it.
Their work reminds me of the approach Kairos sought in its beginnings and still carries to this day, an ethos of cooperation, where peer review was not blind after a piece was accepted, but collaborative. In 1997 I was on the Kairos editorial board, and drafted a small webtext called "So Ya Wanna Be An Editorial Boarder?," one of the nodes for that piece, ""Peer Review" ... The Next Iteration," says:
Peer review is honorable and necessary. It gives authors a glimpse of their audience--colleagues in their field who can help them massage a contribution into better shape. We know that peer review can be abused; the "blind read" can turn colleagues into pit bulls who do no more than tear and gnash a piece to bits. It's an odd habit. When we teach peer review, we make sure to steer students from savage to constructive criticism. But too many blind reviewers neglect to practice what they teach. So it goes. 
But so it doesn't have to go. Kairos seeks to maintain the best in peer review--collegiality, respect, encouragement, sound advice, and honesty--while at the same time avoiding the imperious dismissal and disdainful rejection harried readers can fall habit to. 
What Hybrid Pedagogy writes of love and peer review speaks to my heart, both as an academic who still gives peer review advice to fellow academics, and as an academic who also works for a textbook publishing company, who sees the work that textbook editors and authors do. Textbooks, at least in my experience at Bedford/St. Martin's, are works of love, of scholarship transformed into pedagogy. The work depends very much on the kindness of reviewers, but is really only successful when authors and editors can do the hard work -- the intense work -- of loving what they're working on well enough to bring a book to fruition.

2. Publishing is Pedagogy

Though writing about academic scholarly publishing, Hybrid Pedagogy gets at the heart of how a good publisher views textbook publishing, and at the heart of why I enjoy working in the field:
Publishing is a pedagogical activity: for the author, the reviewer, the reader, the (re)user. Like all pedagogy, it sits in the present tense. And yet, it also holds to an emergent vision for the future. 
Like the editors at Hybrid Pedagogy, the editors who work on textbooks do so because they love what they do, and care as much about teaching and learning as the authors they work with and the faculty who teach.

Work on a textbook happens in a present where the work is designed to meet an emergent future student. The work embraces a pedagogical vision meant to serve that student. Developing a textbook is a labor of love, and the story of each book's origin is a pedagogical love story.

At Bedford, such love stories were made possible by its founders, Chuck Christensen and Joan Feinberg.

Just as Kairos sought to forge new ground in the academic publishing and acceptance of native hypertext scholarship, just as Hybrid Pedagogy seeks to forge new ground by making peer review an act of loving and generous grace, Chuck and Joan forged new ground. Chuck retired at the end of 2001, and Joan just recently announced her resignation. In her farewell letter to the company, she sets forth, much the way Hybrid Pedagogy is doing now for their project, the vision that guided her and Chuck:
From the start we wanted to be known as a different kind of publisher.  Bedford was a company committed to innovation and high quality and committed to the disciplines we published for.  We put great care and attention into every title we published.  Our secret was that we developed every book we published.  Every Bedford title had a development editor working on it.  We used to say that we employed 80% of the development editors in the business, and I think it might have been true.  Most of our development editors had graduate degrees in the fields they worked on, so they had a clear understanding of the needs of students and instructors.  We tried to make ourselves a useful presence in our disciplines by publishing professional books, by supporting professional organizations, and by giving good parties.  We also were committed to hiring and training the best people and creating an environment where they could do their best work. 

3. Editing as a Teaching and Learning Marriage -- It Sometimes Takes Tough Love

It's no small thing to build a successful business -- Bedford/St. Martin's was the most successful company in college publishing these past 33 years -- on a model of care. Care of the kind Chuck and Joan, then Joan as she carried on, both nurtured and insisted on, takes money, time, faith, patience, and yes, love. Entering into a project with a Bedford/St. Martin's development editor means having your book reviewed, revised, developed, and sold very carefully, with as much time as is needed to draft, review, revise, review again, revise some more, to reach a first edition. There is a lot of labor, a lot of love, years, in that process.

With rare exception, in most scholarly publishing, once a journal publishes the article or the university press publishes the book, authors and editors may not ever work together again as authors and editors. Textbook publishing, however, takes a long view, and the relationships of textbook authors and editors can last decades.

Wendell Berry, in his wonderful essay, "Poetry and Marriage: The Use of Old Forms," writes, "The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown."

Hybrid Pedagogy recognizes this in their take on peer review -- what loving peer review means begins in the words given. Working with a textbook author begins too in the giving of words, the endeavor is suffused in words, from the first conversation of an editor with a potential authors. The words begin at pedagogy, continue with pedagogy through all the work of writing, feedback, revising, and end in a pedagogical tool upon publication.

Chuck and Joan set up a shop where, because each book requires so much energy and love, each editor only worked on a few key projects at a time. Bedford does not encourage lots of proposals; instead, development editors try to find the right professors to work on the right books.

To make this work, development editors learn the fields they edit in, read the journals, attend conference sessions, listen to faculty on campus visits. Development editors are as immersed in the field as are the editors of academic journals and presses, only with a focus more explicitly on pedagogy.

Love Can be Tough A Road to Walk

Now human hearts and minds are fallible. Not all marriages work, after all; not all hiring decisions lead to tenure; not all submissions accepted at a scholarly journal find completion; and so not all textbook editor and author partnerships work. But at Bedford/St. Martin's, because projects are few and because editors only develop projects they can believe in, the work usually lasts.

Belief in a project matters. You cannot love without belief. The work of love in publishing, academic and textbook, as in a marriage, can be hard, involving frustration, despair, and the occasionally needed intervention. Thus the work of a development editor partnering with an author involves recognizing another truth Berry describes:
. . . no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you . . . will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way. 
Textbooks are a genre, recognizable as such. They, like poetry, like marriage, have recognizable forms, and procedures for discovering what a book needs to be. For first time author and editor teams, neither party can be solely in charge, and though the editor may be experienced, and the author perhaps well-published and an expert teacher, neither will know, nor can know absolutely which way the road to the book will wend.

Textbook writing is hard because the writing needs to speak to students and at the same time written in a register instructors hear and recognize. Creating a pedagogy students can follow as students and teachers can adapt as instructors requires lots of reviewing.

The road to a first edition can be long and winding indeed. I've seen books take five or six years from contract to publication, with several review cycles, where two, three, or four full revisions and re-conceptions took place. Such a journey, where people work so closely on work so important, is only possible with love -- sometimes tough, sometimes tender -- marked by respect and patience and forgiveness for one another, and the willingness to celebrate the Aha! moments together, to share joy, when things work.


4. Love's Legacy Not Lost

I do not know -- who can -- whether the road Hybrid Pedagogy forges for academic publishing will be followed by others. I think it should and hope it will be. Having been down the road at Bedford/St. Martin's, I can say that publishing with love is a great road to follow. But whether others follow Hybrid Pedagogy, their work and their essay serves as beacon and reminder that scholarly and pedagogical writing not only can be but naturally wants to be loving. Their legacy will be the good work that emerges because of their approach, work that will not exist without their love.

I'm drawn to these considerations of love and legacy by the occasion, mentioned above, of Joan Feinberg's recently announced resignation from Macmillan Education, the company that owns Bedford/St. Martin's.

Chuck and Joan leave a prodigious body of work as a team, and Joan an incredible body of work on her. They've helped create hundreds of textbooks published over three decades that have supported the learning of millions and millions of students. 

Chuck retired early in my career, and so most of it was shaped by my time with Joan.

Joan's a great a teacher. She smiles genuinely, listens carefully, criticizes constructively, and praises readily, all qualities that made working with her fun and learning from her motivating. I've learned as much about teaching and working with teachers from the conversations we've had, and the questions she's asked -- important questions, the ones with no easy answers -- in both private and group meetings in the office. But I learned most from the questions I saw Joan ask professors about their work, their teaching, their students.

Joan stepped into the presidency of Bedford/St. Martin's in January 2002, and then was co-president of Macmillan Higher Education, January 2012 to December 2013. All of us higher education  --faculty, textbook editors, administrators, writing center and learning center directors, directors and members of the centers for teaching and learning  -- know the past dozen or so years have been, and remain, tumultuous. Systemic change is sweeping colleges and universities as well as the textbook industry. Joan helped Bedford/St. Martin's weather those changes by keeping to the vision.

The times required making hard calls, in a tough, competitive, and roiling climate, an era that saw competitors disappear, or go into bankruptcy, or taken over by venture capital firms. But as higher education roiled, Joan tended to authors and editors by continuing to lead us with, and to encourage in us, the "love, patience, kindness, humility, truth" necessary to good writing and editing. And so as Joan resigns, Bedford/St. Martin's still has the most developmental editors of any college textbook publisher, editors who only know how to do their work with love because with love is the only way for the work to have value.

I wish for Hybrid Pedagogy, that they too always find the space, time and shelter to work in the way that their love for learning requires, that as their years go on, when she is needed, they find among their founders, their Joan.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

A true post -- editing is absolutely about love and passion and pedagogy -- and a beautiful tribute to Joan upon her retirement. Thanks for writing this, Nick.