16 September, 2010

Editing an Anthology on Twilight...

So now for something completely different...

I'm in the throes of final revisions of the essays for my forthcoming anthology of Twilight criticism, co-edited with Natalie Wilson (of Ms.Blog), and it's a doozy. I just figured I'd run through it as a few people asked me about the process.  We think it will be called Critical Essays on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga and its Impact on Popular Culture, it will be published by McFarland, and hopefully out this spring or summer.

So to take it back a bit, it started during TwiCon 2009, where I met Natalie (I was not a head organizer for TwiCon, but I did put together the academic panels and papers there, and Natalie gave a paper on the female role in Twilight).  We knew we wanted to do something with the exposure we experienced at the convention to other academics who were looking at the  Twilight Saga, and an anthology of essays seemed to be the best move. There was a lot to say about it over a broad range of topics, people have very strong opinions about it (I'm not sure if you know that or not :-p), and it's rare to find people with whom you can have an academic conversation about the work and not just gasps, swoons, snorts of disapproval, or scoffing at the subject matter. Not many take the analysis of Twilight seriously, so it's brilliant when you meet a huge group of people that not only discuss it, but discuss it knowledgeably, clearly, with appropriate context and reference to other works and its implications on society.

So we put together a call for papers, requesting an abstract-- basically a summary of what they planned to write about, and a biography of themselves (always handy to know backgrounds, histories of your contributors, etc.). We received a ton. And when I say a ton, I mean a ton. It took an age to sort through them, let alone organize, mark, and prioritize favorites. It was tough because we couldn't just pick our top twenty; we had to pick ones that worked well with each other, flowed from one to the next, complemented the work, but also ones that filled in the gaps in the existing research (which wasn't too hard as there's only one other work of Twilight criticism out there, Twilight and Philosohpy, and that leaves a wide range of topics to explore).

We picked about 25? 30? Somewhere around there. We were aiming for a finished group of 16-20 essays, so there were still going to be cuts, and some authors inevitably withdraw due to a multitude of reasons.  Natalie and I split up the essays, each becoming sole editor to half of them.  We worked with our authors to develop and improve their essays, and eventually switched and read each other's essays so we're now familiar with every aspect of the pieces going into our anthology.

Joys of this process:

  • working with someone accountable, with a good head on their shoulders, and with great insight into a different aspect of the Twilight Saga (Natalie focuses on gender, and the female role; I focus on film practice-- so quite different!), so working with Natalie was great.
  • I loved reading all of these new takes on a work I know so well and having it challenge my own perceptions of Meyer's novels (wait until you read the essay on the role of parents and ageism; very cool, and it made me look at Charlie, Renee, Esme and Carlisle in a whole new way). 
  • I love that there will be a finished product at the end; too often with a PhD you have nothing 'completed' at the end of the day. It's a constant, drudging process. With this, I have multiple finished drafts, comments included, new drafts coming in, and eventually there will be a clean product that many participated in and hopefully all are happy with!


  • Deadlines. Organizing 28 people. Keeping track of different versions. Keeping track of email addresses!
  •  Learning how to pick and choose (there were about five essays I would have killed to include because they were about the filmic aspects of the work, but it just didn't fit in this work... thus I'm hoping to put together an anthology focusing on the adaptation of the event film in the near future... but after I finish this bloomin' thesis).
  • Sanity! There are so many bits and pieces that need to get done in order for this to come together on time; so time management, keeping people happy, encouraged, on time, and creating a good piece all while working on my thesis, producing some shorts for Elfin Productions, going to work, and surviving grad school- it was a hurdle indeed!

We still have a lot to go: final versions of the essay, dedication, introduction, formatting... and then we submit to the publishers (McFarland), and I'm not sure how long they have it before it's released, but you can be sure I'll share all of the info as I get it on here!

Things upcoming on my plate: I'm starting my final year of my PhD which means writing up my thesis, I'm working in the international office focusing on international student recruitment from the US, I'm producing a short for Elfin and assisting on other bits and bobs with them, I'm giving a paper at 'Vegetarians, VILFs, and Vamps' conference in November at DeMontfort University, and heading home for a work trip in October, and for a family visit at Christmas. BUSY. But that's the way (uh huh uh huh) I like it. :)

Ta ta for now, and let me know what you think about popular culture as a discussable thing. Have you been laughed at for dissecting and discussing Twilight? Do you think it silly to investigate? Worthwhile? Why or why not?


abenning said...

Enjoyed the update. I'm not sure it will make you feel any better if I say it, but I don't think your work is (insert academically condescending term like "lesser" or "juvenile" here). But then, I'm doing it too, so... All us Twicademics need to stick together.

Pamela Higginson said...

It is rare to see Twilight as the subject matter for an academic paper. And hearing it from you certainly sounds great! I wish you posted a sample thesis abstract for us to see what the paper is all about. I think it would certainly be a hit for people who like or dislike Twilight.