May 13, 2019
With my background in commercial publication design, much of my academic career has been in pursuit of developing new ways of disseminating scholarly work. As a reviewer for the inaugural volume of Press Start, a European games studies journal, I was introduced to academic publishing and the peer review process. Needless to say, publishing scholarly works is much more time consuming and intentional. It took a long time to recognize that quick turnaround times are not as valued as in industry. The other surprise was how bad and inconsistent academic writers are (I say this as a bad academic writer myself).
The most challenging group to edit, however, has got to be creative writers. I learned this during my time with cream city review as Production Manager. ccr is an extraordinary creative writing journal published through UWM’s venerable creative writing department. Whereas the typical production process is a slightly more involved flavor of copy-and-paste, layout production for a creative writing journal demands constant attention to the author’s layout. Interestingly, the textual designs were often the result of the author’s word processor defaults. More often than not, I could work out the author’s vision. Occasionally, I would have to place the author’s PDF into the page. Having come up with a proofing system for authors and editors was helpful in these situations.
Having worked with ccr for several years, I decided it was time for a “change of scenery” and started working on The Proceedings of the Annual Computers & Writing Conference. Collaborating with Cheryl Ball, Chen Chen, and Lydia Wilkes has been the most valuable learning experience in many ways. First, we are a distributed team who are rarely in the same room together. Second, it has helped me learn how to conduct editorial work with others – not an easy transition for someone used to doing everything themselves. Finally, it also taught me that academics are bad at following instructions and style guidelines. But, generally speaking, they’re good people.
One of the boons of academic work is the ability to choose who you work with. While working on the Proceedings, I invited a few colleagues to collaborate on an edited collection about Pokemon Go. I had become increasingly concerned about time management and knew it was not an endeavor to undertake alone. More importantly, I simply wanted to work more with my co-editors. Again, this was an incredible learning experience: First, accept more submissions than you need as authors will bail. Second, make sure all images have permissions. Third, indexing is hard, tedious work. I will never take them for granted ever again. Finally, create a style guide that every author and editor should follow. This not only helps with consistency, it stakes a claim on the discourse – especially if that discourse hasn’t really taken off yet. This was the brilliant move of Andrew Kulak btw. The Pokemon Go Phenomenon was published in May of 2019 by McFarland who was also incredibly helpful and generous with their guidance.
In addition to this collection being published, 2019 was also significant (publication-wise) because of two other releases: the second volume of The Proceedings and the first volume of OneShot: A Journal of Critical Games and Play. This experimental came about after some time looking in vain for a particular kind of publication: a journal about games using games as the primary mode of discourse. For over a year, this idea had been difficult to articulate. Why are games scholars still using conventional text to discuss these works which “speak” through different sorts of mechanics and structures? So many of us were arguing for games’ values as pedagogical tools for writing instruction. Why weren’t we using games to have those conversations? Working with with Daniel Cox and Lauren Woolbright, the first volume of OneShot is very much a prototype publication (why didn’t we call it “Prototype”??) that benefiting from some very generous and patient contributors. Merging the game development cycle with the publication workflow is a process of trial-and-error a few of which include: first, make a style guide. Second, limit the playtesting cycles to two to preserve the “raw” feel of the prototype. For me, this promotes the open-access ideals that the journal attempts to espouse at all points. Third, get a stable host for the site if it’s an online journal. Finally, communicate with your authors as much as possible. Even if you don’t need to, it’s good to keep in touch and let them know where you are.
Looking forward, i will be interesting to see what challenges are inn store. I am deeply committed to opening the publishing process up. My current goal is to develop a cooperative publishing workflow that involves authors and editors working in tandem throughout the process. Seems like it should be easy. But I know better.