Anatomy of an Article
Joseph Janangelo

Continuing Conversations and an Author Takes an Extended Time Out

The process of working on this project continued far beyond a particular class or classroom situation. Jonathan and Jane met regularly to work on his project throughout spring of 2009. 1 As Jonathan remembered, “We met and discussed each draft throughout the spring…Most of the time she was concerned with my thesis.” Jonathan recalled that “My focus was too broad and she kept urging me to narrow my thesis.” According to the writer, “The original thesis was how Hillary believed the biggest inequity of society was children’s rights and I examined her oral and written rhetoric at the time and how her biography contributed to this discussion.”  When I asked Jonathan if he thought his original thesis was perhaps a bit too broad, he responded, “Yes, it was.” He then went on to elaborate: “Jane encouraged me to work more on paper after the class was over by closely examining Hillary’s texts and trying to add more secondary sources.” He remembered that “she suggested I submit it to Young Scholars in Writing (YSW) and [mentioned that I] had many months to prepare for submission.” Furthermore, “She said I could submit it then, but I decided I wanted to work more on it because I knew it wasn’t my best work yet.”

Expanding on his sense that his project needed work, Jonathan said he was “unsatisfied” and didn't “feel ready” to write. It was then that Jonathan stopped revising and took a “time out” in order to “listen to the paper.” He remembered that “For a couple of months I didn’t look at the paper even though I knew I needed to get finished. I thought about it. I listened.” Jonathan’s listening included a component of faith and spirituality.As Jonathan noted, “As a Christian, when I have a question or problem, I listen to what God wants to tell me (even if it takes awhile for me to get His message).” Jonathan explained that “If I keep thinking about it and worrying about it, it doesn’t get fixed. But if I sit and listen, I hear what I’m supposed to.” He added that “It’s kind of like talking to someone with a stereo blasting next to you.” This sense invites a paradoxical question: How do you expect to hear something if you can’t hear? For Jonathan, asking such important questions underscored another perceived link to his subject.  According to him, “Faith is something Hillary and I both share.” He added that “As one of my favorite songs says, “Who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away?” Jonathan’s spiritual faith and his faith in his subject and project are very strong. He was quick to say that “I’m positive that this paper will open doors for me; I’m just not sure which ones. With all the amazing things Hillary has done in her career, who knows what she will do next?” 

In terms of revising, Jonathan remembered that “I kept rolling it [his project] around in my head.” He added that he and Jane had two or three more conferences and that “each time Jane kept pointing out the fact that my thesis was too broad.” According to him, “I felt I was correcting it with each draft, but there wasn’t enough of my own voice. I was quoting others too much. Also, what was my thesis? I still didn’t know what I was trying to say about Hillary.” Jonathan remembered making this diagnosis: “It still felt like a tribute paper and not like a research/analytical paper.” Jonathan’s lingering dissatisfaction with his approach was coupled with a common writing issue, namely the overuse of source material. Jonathan said he was “over quoting” and didn't quite know what he was trying to say. As he put it, “I have a bad habit of over quoting. I rely too much on what the author says because I don’t really like it when people misinterpret a quote.”

He then explained the thinking that underlines this commitment: “I feel a lot of paraphrasing questions the validity of an author because it might leave doubt in the reader’s eyes—‘Is this really what Hillary meant, etc.?’” This strategy represents a commitment to fidelity: “I like to keep exactly what Hillary says so there isn’t any question or doubt.” He was also quick to explain the dangers of not presenting direct quotes: “I feel this paraphrasing of her words has contributed to her [Rodham’s] critics who may take something she does or says out of context and pervert it to solidify their assessment of her.” Along with this strong commitment to fidelity, Jonathan was becoming increasingly persuaded by Jane’s encouragement to put more of his own voice into his essay. He remembers that “After the copious amounts of drafts (probably 10?) Jane wanted my own voice. Same problem—what was I trying to say?”

 Jane also recalled this time when the author’s ideas were percolating in-process: “Over the holiday break, Jonathan emailed me to ask if we could meet and talk about his paper and about his applications to graduate school.” She also recalled that “At a local coffee shop, we talked about his paper and what revisions he should make.” She noted: “I think I probably encouraged him to narrow his focus—I talk about that a lot with students!” Jane went on to explain that “I think Jonathan also struggled in his earliest drafts with developing a scholarly relationship to his subject.” She elaborated on her perception of the conundrum: “He wanted to advocate for Rodham, rather than analyze her rhetorical development.” She noted that “Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive” and added “but I think the earliest versions of Jonathan’s paper were a little tilted toward celebration, rather than critical analysis.” She noted, “And though Jonathan and I met and talked about his work, I think I do my most effective mentoring through written comments on students’ papers. I read and responded to several versions of his paper throughout the subsequent semester.” These nurturing and critical conversations continued and, as Jane described, Jonathan’s persistence paid off: “He had undertaken some pretty serious revisions based on audience reactions at the departmental symposium, and he was awarded second place in the humanities/performing arts divisions at the campus-wide symposium.” Jane recalled, “That, too, suggested to me that Jonathan would do well if he chose to submit his work to YSW.” Even then she was confident “that he would rise to the occasion if he was asked to revise and resubmit, which is the most common decision from YSW’s editorial board.”

Jonathan and Jane's work spilled into the summer. He noted that “After graduation, I moved to Dallas. Jane and I did most of our work via email. [...] I submitted the paper at the end of June. ‘Here goes nothing!’ was my thought.” He elaborated on that feeling, saying that “I knew it was better than my very first draft, but still wasn’t satisfied.” Apparently for this author there was still a perceived distance between intent and inscription: “I just didn’t feel it was my best work. I knew what I wanted to say in my head, but I couldn’t seem to express those thoughts on paper.” As he recounted, “It was the same with my appreciation for Hillary. I really liked her but when people asked me I couldn’t put my feelings into words.” For Jane, the roles soon shifted. As she noted, “Once Jonathan decided his paper was ready to submit his work to YSW, my role completely changed.” She remembered that “As guest editor for volume 7.1, I ceased to be his mentor and moved his essay through the editorial process like any other submission.” She noted that “his essay was evaluated by two peer reviewers and then those reviews and Jonathan’s essay were forwarded to Professor Patti Hanlon-Baker, who serves on YSW’s editorial board.” Jane was quick to voice appreciation for the dedication, diligence, and valuable contributions Professor Patti Hanlon-Baker, who teaches composition at Stanford University. Jane remembered that “She made the decision that Jonathan’s work merited extending to him an invitation to revise and resubmit.” Jane also noted that Patti “provided him with editorial suggestions for improving his project.” While she is “not sure how many times Patti looked at versions of Jonathan’s paper,” Jane is inclined to “think it was late September or early October [2009] before Jonathan’s paper was finalized.” One aspect of the timeline is very clear; Jane remembered that “He began his revisions under Patti’s direction in July [2009].”