On publishing and curating a public self

Last week, I received a copy of the anthology I contributed to something like five years ago. I feel deeply ambivalent about this publication; as I’ve recorded, the publication process has been disorganized and unnecessarily convoluted, and I am so far removed from the baby grad student who turned a seminar paper into this chapter. The book is handsome, and feels good in my hands. It looks well-made. I am glad it’s in the world, but I don’t really feel proud, or comfortable promoting it. My relationship with the editors is not good–at one point they threatened to remove my piece, to which I replied that they could be my guest–and I am deeply suspicious of the conciliatory messages they now send, such as “we are so lucky to be able to include your chapter, the publication is the better for it.” I am afraid to read my own contribution, let alone the others.

By contrast, yesterday I signed a permissions form for my piece about mint and the history of breath fresheners to be included in an OUP anthology of cultural texts (sounds like a college composition reader; more details to follow). I am SUPER psyched about this. I feel thrilled and gratified that the writing I do about food culture is reaching a wider audience than I am used to, and that it seems to resonate with some people–appealing enough to repost and retweet but educational enough to include in a teaching tool. I think that’s what I’ve wanted from the beginning.
Over the next few months, I will be building up a new blog–one focused on books, book business, and storytelling–that I will maintain alongside my food blog. As always, it will be a place to siphon off the mindfroth, all the busy thoughts that bubble up while I go about other work, but it will also be a portfolio to help brand myself as a thinker and writer. One day, which I finally finish those novels I’ve been talking about for years, I will want to have a readership in place, a selection of work samples to send to prospective editors. And I will be moving some of my old writing from this blog to that blog, and locking or dismantling this blog, on which I’ve been writing since 2006. This blog traces my path through grad school, reflecting my struggles and criticisms as well as the ideas that lit me on fire. But there’s so much of this blog that is personal: my own stories about loss and grief and violence that I may tell again but differently; my excoriations of badly behaved customers in the various institutions I’ve served; my very early, very boring navelgazing on all subjects academic and social justice related. This blog now feels like a diary to me; it’s always been public, but the public felt private when it was pretty much only my friends reading.
I’m sure I’m overthinking all of this, but it feels positive and also disorienting to simultaneously seek more attention and to curate a more meaningful distinction between public and private.
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