Better know an editor is an occasional series where JHU Press journal editors provide a look inside the scholarly publishing process.
We work with many fascinating and talented people who serve on the editorial staffs of the journals we publish. Erin Durban-Albrecht, managing editor for Feminist Formations, has agreed to serve as the first subject in this occasional series designed to showcase some of them. When she’s not eyeball-deep in editing, she enjoys crocheting the streets (“yarn bombing”), bicycling, and stalking used bookstores. As a Ph.D. candidate in Gender & Women’s Studies, Durban-Albrecht is also working on a dissertation about gender, sexuality, and nation in the context of Haiti and its diaspora.
Q: How did you end up working for the journal?
A: The editor of Feminist Formations changes every five years, and in 2011, Drs. Adela C. Licona and Sandra K. Soto became the new coeditors after submitting a successful proposal to bring the journal to the University of Arizona. The co-editors wanted an editorial team who had familiarity with current interdisciplinary feminist scholarship and a commitment to the field of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies. Even though I had never worked on a journal before, I became the managing editor of Feminist Formations based on those criteria. The coeditors and the JHU Press Journals Division staff have been terrific mentors, though, in terms of showing me the ropes and pairing my interests and knowledge in feminist studies with the business of producing a quality journal for publication.
Q: What does your job as managing editor entail?
A: The managing editor of a journal needs to have a good sense of the big picture—all the major events that will happen during a production year—along with a knack for small-detail work like copy editing and proofreading. In this position, I work alongside the co-editors and the book review editor to take the revised manuscripts that have already been through double-blind review as well as book reviews and turn them, step-by-step, into a coherent whole. This involves engaging people on different facets of journal production. I spend time with the authors before and after they work with our external copy editor at the Press to make sure that the manuscripts are ready for publication. I iron out final details with the compositor who artfully designs the issue and prepares it to go to print. I also work with the teams at JHUP on the more business-oriented aspects of the journal, such as marketing. It isn’t much of a stretch to say that the managing editor is usually in the thick of things when it comes to journal production.
Q: How important are journals like Feminist Formations?
Many feminist journals are rich resources because, like Feminist Formations, they are a venue for new, creative feminist scholarship coming out of different disciplines, as well as a place to articulate a vision for, and model interdisciplinary scholarship in, the relatively new field of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies. As my mentor likes to say, gender, women’s, and sexuality studies is a space for the feminist study of everything, and you will see that reflected in the pages of our journal as well.
While I can’t speak for other journals, one of the things that is most impressive to me about Feminist Formations is the extent to which feminist ethics are imbricated in the work of the journal. The co-editors are thoroughly committed to interdisciplinary collaboration, no matter how daunting the challenges posed by the university to that model of feminist work. They also highly value mentoring, especially with graduate students and junior scholars, in ways that demystify the academic publishing process. As just one example, the coeditors and reviewers have carried forward the journal’s longstanding commitment to engage the review process as a feminist mentoring endeavor that provides informed, in-depth, and insightful reviews to scholars who submit their work to us.
Q: What advice do you have for authors submitting to journals?
One thing that I would advocate is to touch base with the editor(s) or managing editor before you submit your work. We get occasional e-mail inquiries where people send in abstracts and ask if their manuscript is a good fit for the journal, but there is so much more you can do ahead of time to see if the journal is a good fit for you. Before anything else, I would read the journal’s mission statement, journal articles, and recent editorial introductions to get a keen sense of the scholarship that is published in the journal. After doing this research about the publication, you can always write and ask questions about the journal. For instance, you might want to know the length of the backlog or ask about their editorial philosophy. I would have never considered doing any of that before working for Feminist Formations, but I have since received positive responses from the editors of other journals when I have sent such inquiries.
Q: What is the favorite thing you have read recently?
Whenever I get the chance, I reach for fiction. My favorite books recently have been The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and Divergence and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Apparently young adult dystopias have caught my attention for the time being, but I have generally found that they’re a good source for teaching us (or reminding us) about the world as it is and as it could be.