Sunday, February 24, 2008

Patience is a virtue.

Just not one of mine.

When I was younger, birds had an unfortunate tendency to descend the chimney into the fireplace that resided in our basement. From there, they would escape, fluttering around the house in a confused and frightened manner matched only by my own feelings on the matter. I do not like birds - they fly and are therefore much more mobile than I am. They have beaks and could easily peck me to death. I think. Suffice it to say that I’m terrified of the airborne demons and at no point did I want them in my childhood home.

On one occasion, the creature had landed on a tall shelf in the corner of the living room. Dad had propped the front door open, allowing the frigid air inside, and was attempting to herd our visitor out of the corner and toward the gateway to freedom using a tennis racket. Mom, from whom I inherited my distrust of birds, and I were assigned to hold a blanket over the large opening to the dining room. This effectively separates the living room from the rest of the house and given that the bird would be trapped in the living room, Dad felt confident in his ability to make it depart using the open door.

“Do not,” he instructed clearly as he pranced around the living room with his orange tennis racket purchased on sale, “let the blanket go.” When he finally convinced the poor bird to leave its perch, his voice grew more excited and demanding as he reminded us to hold our positions.

At this point, I trusted Dad as much as I trusted that bird, so I peeked around my corner of the blanket to see the flying minion of evil heading straight for me. And though I wanted the bird out of the house and wanted to have as little to do with the process as possible and knew I should continue to hold the blanket and hope for the best, I gave a squeak of alarm, dropped my half of the fabric and scampered down the hall to barricade myself in my room.

“Katie!” Mom said, exasperated, before she fled to the corner of the kitchen. I heard Dad swear, convinced that if I’d held the blanket, the bird would have turned and seen the front door rather than escaping through the gap between the top of the blanket and the ceiling, thereby rendering us under attack and helpless. (Because Brother broke the other racket, we were left with only one.) I listened from my bedroom at the front of the house and called out to check their progress. When they assured me the bird was gone, I walked down the short hallway to listen to Dad lecture me on his original plan and why I’d ruined it.

“Birds are scary,” I told Mom and she nodded in agreement while cuddling me close and we giggled together while Dad looked on with disappointment.

Journal rejections are like birds. They’re unpredictable and scary and hiding behind a blanket only gets you so far. Thoughts of failure are attracted to unsubmitted papers so having a rejected paper sit without a plan is like inviting the flocks toward me, without even a tennis racket for protection.

So my goal, of course, is to get rid of the paper. Pick a place, edit as needed and resubmit. Then I can stop thinking about it. And the birds of doom will hopefully stay away. So I resubmitted Wednesday’s rejection on Thursday. That left time open to receive another rejection on Friday.

Instead of a frantic rush to fill out forms and approve pdfs to get the rejection away from me, I took a breath. I emailed someone who reviews for that journal pretty extensively, and asked for his thoughts on my abstract. I went shopping with Friend, happily clutching my two books to my chest until I found an empty chair and sat to read. I took an increasingly heavy pile of books from her, set them on my lap with the modest paperbacks I'd selected and turned pages to escape into a story. We had lunch and stopped at Target and when we came home, I’d received a reply to my email.

“I think JournalInQuestion would be very receptive toward an article like this,” he wrote. And I nodded.

“I don’t know what to do,” I told Friend. “I don’t want to pick wrong this time. I don’t want it to get rejected again - it’s becoming really hard for me to cope.”

She looked at me with some sympathy. A kind gesture, indeed, considering that I’d been ranting and whining about reviewers who are nasty and editors who should do a better job of picking constructive people instead of obviously unhappy jackasses who are out to kick at people for mostly random reasons. Dead to me, I tell you. Dead To Me.

So I copied and pasted and filled out forms for JournalInQuestion. I saved and continued and wrote a letter to the editor. I made sure references were properly formatted and double spaced. I downloaded a pdf and signed it before scanning and uploading it again. I checked the pdf by quickly flipping through the pages, then I opened the html view of my final proof, eager to be done.

In a rare moment of clarity, I minimized the window, logged out and read a few more chapters of my book. Then I went to bed.

“I will read that in the morning,” I told Friend of my plan. “Then I should see errors I’d ignore tonight and hopefully make appropriate corrections.” She nodded at me.

I woke this morning from a disturbing dream that I was moved to a tiny work area where I could not display my stuffed neuron or pretty postcards or framed journal cover that keeps me from packing up and quitting amidst all these rejections. I was told to quit whining and accept my fate when I reacted to the move of my desk with outrage. I glared around the room at people who had better desks than mine and began to plot revenge. I blinked myself awake to find Chienne had taken the middle of the bed and I was scooted to one side, surrounded by pillows and fluffy blankets. I much preferred my dream yesterday when Friend and I won the race through the maze around the ice cream shop. We had scampered around the man dressed as a brown dinosaur as he tripped up many of the children who were competing and raced toward the beribboned finish line. We crossed first and were awarded a providence in Canada. When I told Friend of our victory, still foggy from sleep and slurring my words, she paused and asked if I couldn’t have won property somewhere warmer.

Anyway, I shuffled out to the kitchen, pleased that there was enough coffee left from yesterday for me to have a cup, and sat down to read my proof. I wrinkled my nose over the beginning of the abstract and decided I’d fix it later. I’m sharpest in the morning - there is about an hour window where I feel clear and creative and stable - and I read critically enough to change wording or reiterate important points. I corrected figure legends to make them completely explicit. I recalled bits of rejection letters and took out some text while adding other sentences. I opened my Word document next to the html window and corrected and nudged and took a few moments to think. Then, pleased with my progress, I uploaded new files and changed details in a few others and looked at the proof again.

Just as I submitted the final document, there came a scratching sound from the fireplace across the room from where I sat. I glanced over and watched Sprout, situated on the arm of the couch closest to that corner, become a bit more fluffy than normal. Chienne, lying behind my knees, looked at me with fear-widened eyes. I patted her before regarding the persistent sounds with some dismay of my own. While I sat and waited, the dog sought refuge in her bathtub and Sprout sprang down to crouch directly in front of the fireplace, eager to greet whatever might enter. I sighed with relief when the scratching noises ceased. While I might now be more capable of dealing with a bird, my experience with mice lends some doubt to the matter.

But, next time, I will at least wait two nights before resubmitting a paper. Probably.


Amanda said...

Finally! Someone else who understands the true evilness of the flying demons.

I don't like them either :-)

la rebelde said...

i have the same fear of birds. the beaks and my eyeballs...not a nice thought. i think my fear of flying objects (why i also don't play team sports) is enhanced by flying rodents!

Amelie said...

oh, I'm sorry you were rejected. I got one too this week, but as I also got one paper published, I guess I cannot complain.

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