Advisory committees and editorial boards play a key role in university press publishing. At the University of Wisconsin Press, the Press Committee is the guarantor of the press’s imprint, providing final oversight of the peer review process. Their discussions, comments, and questions produce valuable insights, critiques, and guidance to the press editors and director for current and future projects.
For University Press Week 2020, we are highlighting the voices of eight Press Committee members who bring unique new perspectives and ideas to the publishing process.
How do your academic discipline and experiences aid you as a member of the committee?
Anthony Cerulli: I specialize in the study of religion and medical humanities, with an area studies focus on South Asia. This background has helped me assess a wide range of manuscripts that come before the committee that contribute to these areas. I am also hopeful that I offer a helpful outsider’s view on work outside of my areas of expertise, such as the many works of fiction and manuscripts in European Studies.
Kathryn Ciancia: As academics, we know that writing, revising, and editing are processes that both take time and benefit from multiple perspectives. Having a team of people from different disciplines involved in a book can help to make it appealing to as wide a readership as possible.
Nan Enstad: My training and my career have been very interdisciplinary, crossing humanities and social sciences, which not only helps me understand the basis of more books being considered for publication for the press but also helps me understand disciplinary differences and boundaries. In graduate school, I gained training in history, African American studies, feminist studies, and cultural studies, focusing my work on people’s uses of cultural texts including film, popular fiction, and popular fashion. More recently, I’ve moved into Community and Environmental Sociology and study global capitalism, agriculture, labor, and food systems.
Kathryn McGarr: I enjoy being able to draw on my historical training and even simply my experiences as a critical reader to ask questions of the books we review and understand their contributions to their own conversations.
Sara McKinnon: I examine political rhetoric and communication about issues of violence, displacement, gender/sexuality, and human rights with a focus on the Americas. The University of Wisconsin Press has strong holdings in studies of Latin America and the Caribbean, human rights, and LGBT Studies. I apply my expertise in these subjects to assess the strength of the critical projects developed in the manuscripts we consider.
Nandini Pandey: We classics scholars call ourselves philologists—lovers of words. I love applying my love of words, my training in close reading, and my interest in meaning-making within a broader cultural context to my work on the UW Press Committee.
David Pavelich: My career has been built in academic libraries around the country, so I’ve been working with all kinds of books, journals, and other publications for years. Librarians are often generalists, so we take a broad view, and we’re naturally curious about lots of disciplines. As someone who is somewhat separated from academic debates, rivalries, and specializations, I think I bring an objectivity to the committee.
Porter Shreve: I’m a novelist, short story writer and essayist, and I direct the Creative Writing Program at UW, so I tend to lend my voice most often when the committee discusses creative projects. I’ve been very impressed with the range and quality of short story collections, novels and memoirs that have come before the committee. I’m also a screener for the Brittingham and Pollack Prizes in Poetry, which is one of the most respected university press book prizes in the country.
What do you find most fascinating about your role on the press committee?
Anthony Cerulli: I have written one book and recently went through peer review and contract negotiations for another one. Work on the Faculty Committee has opened my eyes to what happens on the press’s end of the book publication process, which, until my service on this committee, had been a little unclear to me. It’s wonderful to learn firsthand just how hard the editors and press’s staff work with authors, each other, and the faculty committee at UW Press, and I’m hopeful operations at most other university presses function this way, too.
Kathryn Ciancia: I’ve just been through the process of publishing my first book, so it’s been really enlightening to see things from the other perspective—that of a press. Plus, it’s just great fun to talk about books, including those in fields far outside of my own academic training, with a group of people who enjoy reading as much as I do!
Nan Enstad: On the press committee, I enjoy hearing about the editorial process and hearing others on the board respond to the topics at hand. I also enjoy reading the books UW Press is publishing!
Kathryn McGarr: Being on the Press Committee gives me a fantastic chance to read literature outside my discipline and enjoy works I normally would not have come across, from collections of short stories to histories of the Irish diaspora.
Sara McKinnon: It is so interesting to get a backstage view of the process of book making. I didn’t understand how much editors serve as advocates for the writers they work with, and just how many eyes are on a book before it goes into production. This experience on the board will undoubtedly shape how I develop my own future book projects and how I mentor colleagues and students who endeavor to publish their work.
Nandini Pandey: This is one of my most fulfilling and fascinating service commitments because it gives me an inside scoop into breaking ideas and trends in other fields, plus insight into things that affect every academic: the production of knowledge, the review and editing process, and the publishing industry. Through the press’s kaleidoscopic range of authors and projects, I get to learn about ideas, cultures, and disciplines that I’d otherwise rarely encounter in my ordinary scholarly life. So my work here redeems the joy in reading and love of imaginative travel that brought me into classics and academia in the first place.
David Pavelich: As a librarian, I’ve worked for years to acquire and provide access to university press books and journals, but I never had the opportunity to learn about university presses themselves. This has been a unique learning experience for me, a really exceptional look into the world of publishing. I’ve gained new insights into questions like, How does the move to e-books impact university presses? Or, How will a greater reliance on shared library collections impact university presses? Of course, it’s also been fascinating to see the results of new research before anyone else. The diversity of disciplines and subjects that the press publishes shows scholars exploring international archives, oral histories, and quantitative data. Librarians like me love to learn about scholars’ research methods and adventures.
Porter Shreve: As someone who submits manuscripts to presses and journals all the time and advises students about when and where to send out their own work, it’s been very helpful to understand the process from the publishing side. Creative Writing programs have such a focus on craft and technique that it’s useful for me to see some of the inner workings of marketing and editorial so my students have a better sense of what happens between the submission and publication of a book.