Friday, July 9, 2010

Truman Paper Update

Today I had a meeting with Oshkosh Scholar's editorial team to discuss the revisions my 15-page Harry Truman paper needs before possible publication.  The paper was originally for a class assignment but the prof encouraged me to submit it to the school's academic journal for consideration, saying it was good work and contained original ideas.  "The opening particularly is just terrific," he said.

The three ladies who sat in on the meeting said it was a really good paper and probably one of the best ones submitted this year, and probably the paper that needed the fewest revisions.  But one added that the opening needed the most work, because "it feels like a car that won't start." 

Two other anonymous professors who submitted written reviews had some interesting comments.  One said "[There] is no original material or insight offered by this paper."  The other said the entire thing was suspect because it was "of a much higher quality of writing" than is typical for undergrads, and openly wondered if it had yet been run through a plagiarism-checking site (specifically,


First of all, I'm an experienced writer to begin with, plus I'm a bit older than the average undergrad, so of course I write better than some 19-year-old.  Not that the reviewer knew my age, but seriously.  I have never even considered plagiarizing anything in my entire life.  Second, I used to be an English major and a member of the local writers club for two years, so I'm used to the content of my writing being mocked and ridiculed in the most cruel of ways.  And I thought I had heard it all, like nothing could surprise me anymore.  But the plagiarism thing was definitely a first.  Here I slaved away at that stupid paper for over two months, burying myself in books I had no interest in, forcing myself to write about a topic I loathed for a class I hated, slumped over my keyboard for hours every day trying to squeeze halfway-coherent thoughts out of my gummed-up cerebral cortex.  I even developed an eye tic, and I missed being inducted into my department's honor society because I was too busy writing this godforsaken paper.  And all for what?  So that some professor can think I cheated and doubt that I did any work at all. 


Furthermore, during the meeting we were discussing how one of my paragraph's points is out of line with my thesis, and when I was trying to confirm that I knew that, it came out all wrong and everyone thought I meant that one should twist all the facts to fit one's thesis.  Which is not what I meant by any stretch.  But man, everyone was jumping at that like a pack of dogs on a stringy carcass and I didn't want to dig myself into any more holes so I decided to just shut up.  I think it was Bill Maher who said that hell is thinking of the perfect thing to say six hours after the fact.

On top of that I was wearing this dressy black polyester tank top that, despite repeated washings and soakings, has this persistently weird chemical smell to it, like a cross between finger wave solution and mothballs (I use neither), and that was bothering me for the whole meeting.  I threw it away when I got home, but still, my torso was swathed in fermented-old-lady-hairdo stench for most of the day. 

So the paper's revisions are due in two weeks, on July 23.  To do them I will have to read more books and journals that don't interest me in the slightest, and Oshkosh Scholar still has the option to not accept my paper for publication after all.  God, why?  Why did I agree to do this? 

Oh yeah.  Prestige--that brutal, merciless master.  Because being published looks good on a grad school application.  But if Oshkosh Scholar finally accepts my paper, I'll be published on a topic I have ZERO interest in.  [insert sardonic laughter here]

I know that grad school will be more of the same, editing papers until my eyes bleed, as Mike Jasinski says.  It makes me dread my "bright" future.  It makes me want to run away and be a migrant worker on a pineapple plantation somewhere.

Not really.  But almost.