The Journals: Management and Publishing Solutions department (J:MaPS) monthly J:MaPS updates will inform you of the latest news including awards, editorial changes, and new issue releases. This month features an interview with Jennifer Tuttle, co-editor and previous editor of Legacy, on her experience editing a scholarly journal.
An interview with Jennifer Tuttle
How did you become involved with Legacy? What led to you becoming the editor?
My first association with Legacy was as an author, and it came at an auspicious moment. I published the first ever “From the Archives” feature, in the first Legacy issue published by the University of Nebraska Press, in the first issue of the new millennium: 17.1 (2000). Little did I know then that I would have the opportunity to edit the journal and to work so closely with UNP, two experiences that are among the most rewarding of my career.
I was invited in 2006 to serve as coeditor as part of the editorial team assembled by Nicole Tonkovich. It was an undiluted pleasure to work with her, with the rest of the editorial staff, and with the many authors whose work was assigned to me. Nicole taught me a great deal, directly and by example, about rigorous evaluation, meticulous editing, and generous leadership. She did far more than simply fulfill her own editorial duties: she mentored me, giving my own editorial work individualized attention. Never again will a dangling modifier escape my notice! When the time came in 2012 for her to move on to other projects, I had the privilege of becoming editor in chief, a post I held for a five-year term. Earlier this year I in turn passed the job to Susan Tomlinson, whom I had previously brought on as a coeditor. While stepping down from the editorship was deeply bittersweet for me, it’s been thrilling to watch Susan take the helm with such graceful mastery.
What was the most challenging aspect of being a journal editor?
Balancing Legacy work with other commitments. Like many academics, I have a full load of teaching, scholarship, and service duties as well as a family deserving of my time and attention; adding a journal editorship to that full plate is no small thing. Looking back on my five years as editor, I do not believe there was even one day on which I said to myself, “Excellent! I am all caught up.” There is always more to do than time allows, and there are myriad firm deadlines that must be met. And the work itself must always be excellent, because the quality of the journal reflects upon everyone—editors, authors, and the press.
Achieving this balance is possible, and I feel satisfied that I did so. However, its challenges consist only partly in the day-to-day time management alluded to above. More profound for me were the competing desires of my two scholarly identities. Like many editors, I made a self-conscious decision to put some of my own scholarly projects on the slow track; this was the right course of action, yet it did not quiet the siren song of my own scholarship. Although I remained productive, I missed the sustained attention to research and writing. At the same time, I adored the Legacy editing work so much—truly, so very much—that I always wished I had more time for it than I did. Reworking authors’ texts, burnishing their prose, crafting each issue into an organic whole are creative, pleasurable, and finite tasks, and I often found myself wishing I had more hours in the day to devote to them.
What was the most rewarding?
Being in a position to shape the field. Journal editors have a great deal of power, and it incumbent upon them to use it wisely and well. With our 25th anniversary issue in 2009, Legacy invited rigorous assessment of the journal’s defining terms—“American,” “women,” and “writers”—and articulated our renewed commitment to literary recovery, and I took on those imperatives when I assumed the editorship. If I may say so, some of the most influential recent scholarship assessing the state of the field of (for lack of more nuanced terms) American women writers and archives-based research appeared in Legacy. Likewise, we have explored the ways that the scholarly and pedagogical work of academe might address the myriad structural inequalities about which so many of us are deeply concerned. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to this work and, since assuming the editorship, having a hand in charting its course.
What advice would you give someone interested in editing a scholarly journal?
- Do it! You will thank me later.
- There are so many day-to-day concerns associated with editing a journal that one sometimes must make a conscious choice to keep the eye trained on one’s larger vision for the journal and the field. Don’t neglect to take time for that; it is what makes all the rest of it more meaningful.
- Journal editing has a lot of moving parts, so develop an organizational system for managing that. Since I became a devotee of the “table” function in Word, I have never looked back. (Nicole Tonkovich taught me this, too.)
- Delegate. Then follow up.
- Create space (and time) to do the work by seeking a course release from your home institution.
- Befriend other journal editors. Not only are they smart, dynamic, and generous people whom it is a pleasure to know, but they are valuable colleagues with whom to share information and from whom to seek advice.
- Use the resources provided by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ), and make sure your journal has a membership.
- Never underestimate the value of really good SWAG.
- Set aside time for your own scholarship, establishing reasonable goals for your productivity. Managing expectations is a beautiful thing.
- If you work with a press to produce your journal, be respectful and appreciative of their needs and contributions, because they are true partners in the endeavor.
Michelle Raheja, Univeristy of California, Riverside, and Siobhan Senier, University of New Hampshire, will take over as editors of Studies in American Indian Literatures starting with Volume 29, Issue 3.
American Indian Quarterly, Volume 41, Issue 3
Frontiers, Volume 38, Issue 2
Great Plains Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 3
Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships, Volume 3, Issue 3
Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1
Native South, Volume 10
Nouvelles Études Francophones, Volume 32, Issue 1
Resilience, Volume 4, Issues 2-3
Studies in American Indian Literatures, Volume 29, Issue 2
Studies in American Naturalism, Volume 11, Issue 2
Western American Literature, Volume 52, Issue 2