2012 in review - My first year as an Independent Scholar

Friday, 04 January 2013 14:25

All in all, 2012 was a great year for me. While I suffered through a string of chronic-pain flares and developed carpal tunnel syndrome in late November, I am learning, slowly, how to better take of myself (so those kind of problems don’t happen with such regularity). Overall, I am far healthier – both physically and mentally – than I ever was in graduate school. Part of this improvement is due to my decision to pursue independent scholarship. While I definitely went through bouts of self-doubt and uncertainty, I kept pushing myself to take risks. I went to cons (both academic and fan), I sent out proposals to journals, and I took on the task of editing a collection of essays.

Since I had no idea how to be an Independent Scholar, I had no expectation of reward. I figured that if I was successful in least one of my attempted academic endeavors, then good on me. I did not expect to land every proposal (except one) that I wrote up. As an Independent Scholar, I found the success –and joy, and intellectual freedom, and peer acceptance – that I never did as a graduate student. Perhaps the only thing that changed has been my attitude to the work, but I do believe I have finally discovered the path of scholarship that best suits me. Since I am honestly researching and writing for the love of it (and not for a tenure-track worthy CV), the parameters of what constitute my success and failure are broad and always flexible. Independent scholarship won’t put money in my back account, but, as clichéd as it sounds, my life feels richer for it.

It is actually quite difficult to write this post without weeping over my keyboard (and not just because my wrist still hurts). How can I properly express the depth of my surprise – and satisfaction – that I am doing well at the very thing I love? I feel incredibly blessed to be in this position. Without the support of my partner, Andrew, I am unsure if I would have taken the risk to start this unusual and uncertain career path. I have an academic coaching and editing business that I thoroughly enjoy each day, and a self-determined work schedule that allows me the space and time to follow my scholarly interests.

Here is what I accomplished as an Independent Scholar in 2012:

- Wrote the Afterword for Outlaw Bodies, Edited by Lori Selke and Djibril al-Ayad

- Presented papers/was a panelist at ICFA, WisCon, WorldCon/ChiCon7, SFContario3, and attended the World Fantasy Convention.

- Confirmation of publication in the forthcoming WisCon Chronicles 7 (paper: “Theorizing Vulnerability in Feminist SF) and a book review in JFA.

- Two articles are in the peer-review process (one for a journal, another for a collected works).

- And, saving best for last, I landed a contract with Palgrave Macmillan for my edited book, Technology as Cure? Representations of Disability in Science Fiction! I’m beyond thrilled about this news – the subject matter is important and timely, and my contributors deserve to see their interdisciplinary work in print.

Just writing all of these things out makes me giddy/proud/scared/teary. Seriously. I’m feeling all the emotions. I was so used to getting the “we regret to inform you” rejection letter that I really didn’t fully believe that I had all the skills necessary to make it as a scholar. Even though I would say –and sincerely mean – that I could make it in academia if I wanted to, there was a nagging little voice deep inside that whispered “that’s a lie.” I think defeating that voice, or, perhaps more truthfully, pushing forward despite it, has been my greatest accomplishment this past year. I don’t want to let such (old) shadows of self-doubt and fear keep me from challenging myself and exploring new and unfamiliar ways of working (either paid or unpaid).

I don’t have an exact idea of what 2013 will look like for me, but I know that it is going be an interesting year. I’m going to fulfill my long-held nerd dream of having a room full of people listen to me talk about Star Trek – I will be presenting two (!) papers on disability in the Star Trek universe (one at ICFA in March and the other at Eaton/SFRA in April). I haven’t committed to any non-regional SF cons yet, as finances will only allow for so much travel. Still, now that I have built up a network within the SF community, I don’t feel so isolated and am already looking forward to participating in SFContario 4 (held November in Toronto).

I want to thank everyone who has helped me achieve my goals this past year – my old friends from grad school and my new ones from cons, my diverse editing and coaching clients (whose business keeps me in food and books), and the many wonderful and supportive people I talk to online (I’m looking at you Twitter peeps). It is easy to laugh at Independent Scholarship – to load it up with pejorative labels and preconceived ideas of some sort of intellectual inadequacy – but I have been so heartened to find an open-minded community of people who have taken my work seriously. Thank you all. Your presences in my life, no matter how small or passing, have helped drown out that whispering voice of doubt. I wish a happy, healthy, and brave New Year to you all!

 

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