Women’s Dinners

I attended the Little Berks Friday and Saturday at Mount Holyoke College. The Little Berks dates back to 1930, starting as an organization for historians who were women.  In the 1970s, the group began holding conferences on women’s history, broadly defined. This is the Berkshire Conference; the next will be in June 2011 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Last night, many of the sixty women attending the Little Berks got “dressed” for diner. Most people were wiring skirts, dresses, or nice pants. When I looked at the assembled group in their finery the first thing that came to mind was how similar they were to the women from the University of Chicago who organized and attended the yearly Faculty Wives Dinners.

These dinners began as a response to the male only trustee dinner that the University held every year. The faculty wives wished to have alternative entertainment on that evening and in an eventually very elaborate volunteer effort provided dinner and a skit.  These women wanted to have something of their own in a similar fashion to the women who founded the Berks. Those historians desired have a network that would be comparable to the “old-boy network” they observed at meetings of the American Historical Association.

I find the discovery that the two groups of women have much in common very interesting because I am fairly certain that the individual who comprises the two groups would not feel that they are comparable.

Academic Publishing

Today I attended a panel on Publishing cosponsored by the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center and Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. The panelists were: Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication and Special Initiatives Librarian, UMass Amherst, Ralph Faulkingham, Professor of Anthropology, UMass Amherst and Co-Editor of the African Studies Review, Paula Giddings, Senior Editor, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism,  Laura Lovett, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst/Director, Five College Women’s Studies Research Center/Editorial Staff, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Professor of English and American Studies, Amherst College and Editorial Staff, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and Bruce Wilcox, Director, University Press, UMass Amherst.

The discussion was mainly about publishing articles in scholarly journals, which seems like an arduous task. Several of the speakers connected publishing to advancement in one’s career. Given that it can sometimes take up to two and a half years for an article to be published, the process seems designed to be very anxiety provoking.

One of the questions from the audience was about journals not wanting an author to submit to more than one journal at a time. Karen Sanchez-Eppler said she feels it is because the peer reviewers are volunteers so the journals’ editors want to be protective of their time and energy. She suggested that it is a system of collegiality. Of course, whether they mean it or not, it also acts as a barrier to entry for aspiring academics. The journals’ editors and reviewers are already in, to a greater or less extent, and their decision on your journal article submission can play a role in whether you rise up the tenure track ladder or not.

Another group of questions was about images and copyright issues more generally. This is a very grey area since a lot depends on whether you think somebody will notice if you have used an image or not. I tried very hard to acquire permission for all the images in Brewing Battles but I know that other authors are sometimes not as scrupulous. It can cost you a lot of money to use images; authors usually bear the cost.

Marilyn Billings is a librarian at the University of Massachusetts where they are encouraging PhD students to place their completed dissertations in an open access format, Scholarworks, that the University maintains. This is not a replacement for what in my day was UMI and is now Proquest UMI Dissertation Publishing.  Although Scholarworks is not competing with UMI, I wonder about its future.  As both print on demand companies and open access services provided by universities increase, the option of placing your thesis with UMI to be “published” seems less automatic.

I am not an academic although I am a historian and I do have a PhD. Listening to both the speakers and the audience, I realized once again what a difficult career choice academia is, certainly, until you get tenure.

Write Angles 24

Last Saturday I attended the 24th annual Write Angles conference I have attended this conference several times before and it is always a good experience. This year the two keynote speakers, Leslea Newman and Roland Merulllo both spoke about different aspects of the writing process. The theme of this year’s conference was “staying inspired.”

I had the opportunity to meet with a literary agent for fifteen minutes.  I am at the beginning of my new project so my query letter and book proposal are not as detailed as they will be further along in the process. It was still good to try to pitch Dames, Dishes, and Degrees to her.

I attended three panel sessions at the conference. The first was “Self-Publishing Success” I have often thought about self-publishing. Depending on who your publisher is, as an author you may have to do a lot of marketing, publicity, and even editing on your own. Small publishers and university presses may not have the same access to the large chain book stores as large publishers do. According to Jason Rich, one of the panelists, if you self-publish you will not get your book in Barnes and Noble.

Self-publishing is appealing because you would retain control over your work and have the potential to realize greater earnings from the sale of the book.

Apparently Apple will be releasing an e-book reader in the near future and Jason felt that this would lead to greatly increased sales e-books. It is very inexpensive to self-publish an e-book.

I also attended a session on blogging and one  on “How Agents Think.” The panelists  who talked about blogging included Jeannine Atkins, Kathryn Hulick, B. J. Roche, and Victoria Stauss. All of them mentioned that blogging is work. Jeannine, B.J., and Victoria all have blogs that have a different focus from their websites. I would find it very difficult to maintain two completely separate web entities.

Jeannine’s blog is about the writing process; her website promotes her books. B.J. has a website, Fifty Shift for mid-life women which is not exactly a blog. Victoria runs a website, Writer Beware and blogs there. She  also writes fantasy novels. These two different types of writing conflict. I have found that writing this blog helps my overall writing but it is also true that sometimes there are not enough hours in the day for both the blog and my research.

The main practical thing I took away from the conference was that I should finally take the plunge and start using social media. I have signed up for Twitter but I have only tweeted once. Stay tuned for further developments on that front.

101 Posts

This is my one hundred and one-blog post if you count the thirty-eight I did before I had a word press blog. If anyone is interested in reading them go to my website, amymittelman.com, and click on archives.

At the panel discussion on Monday about women and blogging, Jenny Davidson said she had started her blog because she wanted to promote her novel. I initiated my website, then the blog in both versions, for the same reasons. Somewhere along the line, however, the blog has become its own entity. I enjoy writing and I think writing more frequently has helped me to become a better writer.

My public online presence or persona has also evolved. In the beginning, I felt it was important to stick to writing about beer and other topics that directly connected to Brewing Battles. I also wanted to sell as many books as possible so I tried not to write anything controversial or potentially offensive. I also tried not to generate controversy, which may have had the unwanted effect of limiting my audience.

I still want to sell books and maintain a professional demeanor but I have relaxed about topics and opinions. Partly I am never sure whom or how large my audience is. This has given me some freedom to express myself since it is entirely possible I am talking to myself.

The internet and web have changed ideas and expectations of privacy. Because I have consciously sought a public identity, I have to expect that when I Google my name various things come up. I live in a small town so car accidents and the like are news in a way that they would not be here in Manhattan.  Because all newspapers have an online version, news items wind up being readily available.

The discussion on Monday touched on some of these privacy issues and Alexandra’s comments about the racial nature of disclosure are troubling. The real life consequences for someone’s risky behavior coming back to bite them later in life are very sobering.

Realizing this makes me more determined to behave online in an appropriate and professional way.  My blog persona is therefore close to my real life persona but not necessary how I am in the safety and security of my home and family.

This is a little more serious than I initially planned to commemorate my 101 posts. I will keep posting about beer, politics, women, and any other subjects that interest me. If you have been reading, I hope you stay around. If you are new, welcome and cheers!

Women, Blogging, and Academia: Part Two

After each of the woman had give short description of how and why they began blogging (see Part 1), Jenny Davidson asked a few questions and then there were also questions from the audience. Much of the discussion focused on pseudonymity versus anonymity, as well as issues of creating characters and naming people. Both Claire and Tedra used pseudonyms but are now out. Tedra misplaced where she was writing from and created some amalgam characters.

On the other hand Jenny always used her real name since her blog was linked to her publishing a novel. She feels that there are other issues connected to this concerning how you talk about other people. She used the example of being on a job search committee and how it would be inappropriate to blog in a negative fashion about the meetings since the job candidate could read it.

Eva started her blog as a graduate student which she described as being a cheap lab employee. She used her first name only but on other more serious blogs she uses her full name.

The issue of how fully you disclose your identity when blogging is connected to the potential risk of blogging for graduate students and nontenured professors. None of the panelists felt that they had suffered in their careers because of blogging but they all agreed that it is a personal decision. People should use common sense. Alexandra did say that “being public about being wrong can be a racialized privilege.”

Although the panelists did not really discuss in any depth issues of class and race in blogging,  Alexandra’s  comment reveals some of the issues inherent in writing in a public forum. Tedra see blogging as primarily social media and therefore likes the comments. All of the panelists delete obnoxious and offensive comments.

One of the questions from the audience was about blogging counting as publications for tenure. Both Jenny and Tedra felt that if anything it would be counted as service. Claire pointed out that there is still not agreement about how to handle publications from online journals, even if they are refereed. Thus she feels that counting blogging as writing is far down the line. Tedra said that blogging is “raw” writing while published works are “cooked.”

The panelists pay some attention to the news cycle and the immediacy of blogging about events as they happen. However they are not journalists and don’t claim to be.

The discussion made me think a lot about my own blogging and on-line persona. I will say more about that tomorrow.

Revisiting Old Posts

I have recently been thinking about the thirty-eight posts from my pre-wordpress blog.  I  realized that people might want to see what else I have written on a topic and there isn’t an easy way to do that. I thought about re-posting all of them, but that seems like too much work. I also thought about linking to them every time I am on a topic again, but I would get stuck in an endless loop. So I will just remind all of my readers that you can go to  my website and find the old posts. Click here to do so.

This was cross-posted from Women Grow Business

“Am I a Woman in Business?” Learning to Promote Yourself the Same Way Businesses Do

amy-m-wgb-post-42009

Am I a woman in business, a businesswoman?
That is an interesting question for me to contemplate in writing a post for Women Grow Business. I started my website, AmyMittelman.com, and my blog, Musings, because I wrote a book, Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer.

Many years ago, I had a business, Academic Publicity, that provided promotional help for academic authors.

In retrospect, my business plan had a fatal flaw: academics didn’t want to pay for my services.

In general, academics do not think of themselves as writers and thus do not want to pay to increase their book sales. The existence of the book itself punches their tenure ticket. And most academics write only one book. The one major business success I had was getting my husband‘s book, Nazism, the Jews, and American Zionism, 1933-1948 into paperback.

New business, young family, and next steps
At the time that I was running Academic Publicity, I had completed a PH.D in American history and had two small children at home. I had started the business because I was realizing it was unlikely I would be able to get an academic job without significant disruption to my life.

The perfect vision of hindsight
Because of life’s increasing complexity with family, including buying a new home, I ended the business after two years. With the perfect vision of hindsight, I realized that was too short a time to grow a business. I pulled the plug on Academic Publicity so quickly because I was losing money and I already had some feelings of guilt because I had been unable to find an academic position.

I think inadequacy, guilt, and feelings of illegitimacy are all common problems for women as they negotiate between professional goals and family life. I ended the business and quickly looked around for some way to be gainfully employed.

I settled on becoming a nurse.
I have been a nurse for 14 years and have worked in many different healthcare settings. I do not feel that being a nurse replaced being a historian. I brought all the skills and lessons I had acquired from my academic career, my business, and my family life to my new profession. Again, I think this is typical for women.

Many women’s lives do not occur in a linear fashion.
Both male and female baby boomers are famous for second acts and continually reinventing themselves. I believe this has always been truer for women and has certainly been true for me.

Contemplating a book on beer
Although I enjoyed being a nurse, I had always wanted to publish my dissertation as a book and that remained a goal. About seven years ago, with an increased focus, I began to contemplate taking material from my thesis and writing a book on beer. I was fortunate enough to obtain a publishing contract in the spring of 2006 and Brewing Battles was published in December 2007.

I believe persistence was the key to my achieving this long held goal.

And to achieve anything you probably have to have a passion for the endeavor.

Algora Publishing (who published Brewing Battles) is a very small press, providing very little marketing support for my book. So I have had to market the book myself. Luckily, I had the experience from once running my business Academic Publicity to fall back on. However, in the 15 intervening years since I ended the business, publicizing and marketing books changed completely.

I have marketed the book in both traditional and new ways.
I sent out advance copies to various academic and trade journals, hosted a book party, and have given book talks. Of course, almost all of my correspondence and press releases have been via email (…haven’t done any direct mailings). And many blogs also received my press release about Brewing Battles, in addition to traditional print media.

Learning curves and achieving mastery on the blogosphere
The blogosphere represents the most significant change from the world of book marketing 20 years ago. Setting up my own blog was definitely a challenge with several false starts. Every new task I have attempted has come with a new learning curve and a deep sense of accomplishment when I achieve mastery.

Persistence is key here as well.

Finding the answer to “Am I a woman in business?”
So in answer to my original question, I am a writer and that means I am in business for myself. My varied life experiences have taught me that everything in life is about marketing, marketing yourself. Not in a conceited or self-absorbed way but in the sense that…

You have to put yourself forward and promote yourself in the same way that businesses do.

 

Self Publishing

Many people seem to feel the book as a printed, tangible object may be on the way out. The rise in popularity of digital readers such as Kindle would seem to support this idea. The apparent demise of the book has not stopped books from being published. In 2008 almost 480,000 books were published or distributed in the U.S. This was an increase of over 100,000 books from 2007.

A recent article in the New York Times explored the contribution of self-published books to this increase. Technological advances have enabled aspiring authors to obtain printed copies of their work for as little as $3. Most self-publishing companies charge authors fees, staring at $99, for various services. The article points out that self-publishing authors sacrifice access to marketing and distribution that traditional publishers usually provide.

The article posits a strict dichotomy between self publishing and conventional publishing. Many authors who have their books published by main stream publishers do not receive any marketing services and have to market the book themselves. Technology and Amazon have given publishers greater latitude in printing and distribution which can led to a conventionally published book not being available from a wholesaler such as Baker & Taylor. Often being published by commercial publisher gives the author that distinction and nothing else. Some self publishing firms provide distribution via wholesalers as part of their services. It is more appropriate to look at publishing in 2009 as being a spectrum with major publishing houses on one end and self publishing at the other. For many authors in the middle there is little difference.

E Books

There was a review of the new version of Amazon’s Kindle in the New York Times the other day; today the Times has a story looking at several e-book personal reading devices. The question I have is about ebooks in libraries. WorldCat says about 140 libraries have a ebook version of Brewing Battles. On June 30 2008 WorldCat had 120 libraries owning the e book.I got my royalty statement in August and I got royalties on 3 ebooks. Does anybody understand how that works? So if the future of books, particularly more scholarly ones, is ebooks, does that mean authors will make even less from their books?

The other issue with ebooks in libraries is connected to the different databases and electronic services various libraries have, depending on the cost of the items. So if an academic institution doesn’t have a lot of money they may not have as big a collection of ebooks as another library. Some libraries may allow you to download a pdf of the book -in essence borrow the book-  and some may not.

Beer Books on Amazon

Right now, 12: 55 p.m. on Saturday January 10, 2009, the hardcover version of Brewing Battles is number 87 in Amazon’s  list of  “The most popular items in Beer. Updated hourly.” Yesterday the paperback was 84 and the hardcover 100.

The rankings really do change by the hour so it could all be different by 2 p.m. I have always intended to write at least one blog about Amazon and I have been trying for a while to catch a moment when at least one of the versions of the book was on the list so I could write about the contents  of the list rather than its meaning and value .

Number One right now is How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Right the First Time by John Palmer. Of the nine other books in the top ten,  eight are about home brewing, including  Charles Papazian’s classic, The Joy of Homebrewing which is number 3. Number 5 is  The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible which, according to Amazon, tells the reader  “how to make beer, wine, liqueurs, cider and moonshine whiskey.” Home distilling is  illegal in the United States.

In my recent AHA talk, I discussed the fact that scholarly work on alcohol and temperance has been more weighted towards temperance than the industry. The reverse is true for popular literature as the Amazon list indicates.

Number 10 on the list is Charles Bamforth, Grape Versus Grain: A Historical, Technological and Social Comparison of Beer and Wine. Bamforth is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at the University of California, Davis.

The next fifteen follow the same general path, being either about some aspect of brewing geared toward the home brewer, or about beer styles and types of beer. Number 18 , Stan Hieronymous, tells you how to Brew Like a Monk while number 23 is the late Michael Jackson’s opinion on the best beer in the world, Ultimate Beer. Charlie Papazian makes another appearance with the same book at 24 ( one of the many peculiarities of  Amazon’s list – for another post).Shine on Shiner Beer rounds out the top twenty-five and commemorates the 100 year history of the Texas brewery.

Numbers 25 to 50 cover more brewing how-tos,  a book on beer drinking games, a beer memoir by Steve Hindy, Beer School:Bottling Success at the Brooklyn  Brewery, Brewing For Dummies, another book by Michael Jackson as well as another by Charles Papazian. Numebr 36 New Jersey Breweries by Lew Bryson, is a guide book; the first history on the list is number 49, Maureren Ogle, Ambitious Brew, the hardcover.

Numbers 51 -75 include books on wine, sake, and root beer as well as another book by Charles Bamforth. Number 72 is Maureen Ogle in paperback ( that peculiarity again)

Okay I have been writing this for forty-five minutes . Let’s see if Brewing Battle’s is still on the list. I am but at 89.  Number 77 is Gregg Smith, Beer in America: The Early years 1587-1840 which is a good , popular history of the pre-German American brewing industry. The rest of the groups is more of the same with  beer drinking games, sake, Michael Jackson, The Big Book O’ Beer which is shaped like a beer can, and several cookbooks. Number86 is Ken Wells, Travels with Barley,a  journalistic endeavor. The final book, number 100 is Bill Yenne, Beers of the World. Yenne has written several books on beer.

Even though the list changes every hours and did so while I have been writing, the actual content of the list does not vary very much. You can pretty much count on Jackson and Papazian as well as a  few others; then books on home brewing and beer styles with a very small smattering of more serous works.

It would have been surprising to find an anti-alcohol work on this list, but having examined the beer list, I think I will try to find a similar list for health, temperance, prohibition or the like and see what that holds.