It’s Here! A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast

“This unusual encyclopedia focusing on the female breast is scholarly and exhaustive, yet pleasurable to read. It should find its place among one’s favorite reference books. “

–Marilyn Yalom, Stanford University; author of A History of the Breast

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Yesterday, my husband and I visited our younger daughter and her boyfriend in their new apartment. They live about an hour and half away from us in Reading, Pennsylvania. We had a lovely visit and a delicious dinner prepared by my daughter. We talked and their dog and cat entertained us, as pets do. When my husband and I got home—well past my usual bedtime—my husband discovered that my author copies of my new book, A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast, had been delivered to our house while we were away. What a perfect end to my Saturday!

I don’t care how many books you write—it’s always exciting to see and hold the new one. And if it isn’t, you probably shouldn’t be a writer.

I realize that this book is not the type of book most people will rush out to buy for their personal libraries–although I would be pleased if you do! However, if you think it is a book that might be useful for any businesses you know of, or schools, or libraries, please do recommend it. I wrote several of the entries, and I compiled and edited the entire volume, but I also had the help of scholars from all over the world, including the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Poland, Romania, Argentina, and Nigeria. The book covers nearly everything you could want to know about breasts—breast anatomy, breast cancer, breast augmentation and reduction, breasts in art, literature, movies, and pop culture, breasts in fashion, topless protests, breasts in history, and more. Come on, you know you want to flip through it now, don’t you? Really now, don’t you?

One of my assistants

One of my assistants

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He finds the box more interesting than the books.

My Summer of Breasts and Revolution

 

I’ve been busy this summer with professional projects and personal issues and events. Unfortunately, this has left me little time to post to my blog or visit the blogs of others. I apologize and hope to have more time later in the fall.

 

In July I reviewed the page proofs for my forthcoming book, Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast. It covers everything you always wanted to know about breasts in history, art, fashion, literature, movies, popular culture, and science. It should be out in October, or perhaps even before that. Grazia De Michele reviewed it for the Breast Cancer Consortium. You can read the review here:

 

I’ve also been working on my next book, another encyclopedia, titled World of the American Revolution (ABC-CLIO). As the deadline approaches (GULP!), I am scrambling to write numerous entries on a wide variety of topics. Let me just say there have been ISSUES. Contributors dropping out; contributors not coming through with acceptable articles; contributors who plagiarize. . .But I have also had some wonderful articles submitted. So it goes.

 

In addition research, editing, and writing entries for my books, I’ve been writing many test items this summer—after all, I have a daughter getting married and there are a few expenses to be covered. The bridal shower has past and the wedding will soon be here. I can’t believe that something that seemed so far away is now almost here! There will be more on that topic in the future.

 

With so much going on, my husband and I did not even attempt to make vacation plans, but we have taken a few hours here and there to visit places in the area. Following my theme of “revolutions,” we went to Eastern State Penitentiary for the “Bastille Day” Celebration as envisioned by the Bearded Ladies theatre troup. My husband and I stood for free with the mob. We cheered and jeered as Edith Piaf introduced celebrated figures from the past to help bring about revolution. Or something. Well, we all know from Les Miz that revolutions need songs. And apparently they need line dances, too. Because this is Philadelphia, Marie Antoinette—joined by Tonya Harding—threw TastyKakes from the top of the prison with the cry, “Let them eat Tastykakes!” It is true Philadelphia craziness that has to be experienced to be believed. You can see more about it here.

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After the “execution,” my husband and I went on an after hours tour of the prison. If you are ever in Philadelphia, visit this museum. It is fascinating. The prison opened in 1829 and was considered a model prison with each prisoner kept in a solitary cell. The prison was in use until it closed in 1971.

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On another day, in lovely summer weather, we walked through the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art. We saw an exhibit of proposed architectural changes to the museum. The alterations, if they happen, will be done in stages, and will take decades to complete. The proposal that has met with the most discussion is one that would change the famed “Rocky” steps.

 

After visiting the Medieval and European galleries, we went outside to have a picnic lunch and walk. It was a beautiful day to walk by Boathouse Row and along the Schuylkill River. When looking walking along the river, it is easy to imagine the nineteenth-century city of Philadelphia.

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Looking at the Philadelphia Museum from the Waterworks

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A solitary rower on the Schuylkill River

 

We have also managed to make two brief trips to the beach (down the shore, as we say here), as well as some trips to local wineries.

 

So this is my summer of breasts and revolutions–and a soon to be wedding. It’s been brightened by family and friends, sunny skies, stress-busting trips to the gym, and some glasses of wine. Chocolate, too, of course. I hope all of you are having a good summer! Back to work for me.

 

Blog Tour: Tag You’re It, or Hide and Seek?

Marion Beaman of Plain and Fancy graciously invited me to participate in a Blog Tour. Participants are supposed to discuss their own writing and writing techniques and then “tag” others. I am truly honored that Marian asked me, and if you are not familiar with her blog, you should be. Marian is in the midst of writing a memoir, and her blog is filled with wise thoughts, witty and profound quotes, and photos—many of which are from her childhood “Plain” life in Pennsylvania. I’ve never met her offline, but she is kind, gracious, and intelligent, and her blog reflects this. Through her blog, I’ve been recently introduced to the wonderful blogs of Traci Carver, Judy Berman, and Laurie Buchanan.

1. What am I working on now?

I am going to have a busy summer of writing and editing. My current book project is an encyclopedia, The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia to be published by ABC-CLIO. My deadline is imminent. The book should be out next spring, assuming I survive the process of getting it finished. The project has proven to be much more exhaustive–and exhausting–than I anticipated. As with other encyclopedia projects, rounding up and keeping track of contributors has been a constant problem—even more so than in other projects I’ve worked on for some reason. As a result, I have had to rewrite several entries, and I’m writing many more than I expected to write.

Any second now, I expect to receive the copyedited manuscript for another encyclopedia project that Marian mentioned, a Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast, which should be out in September.

I also work as a freelance test-writer for ETS (Educational Testing Service), and during the summer, I always have more of this work. Then there is this blog—which I consider my “fun writing.”

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

For many reference books, and certainly for the encyclopedias, there are formats and guidelines that have to be followed. I think what might make my work different is the subject matter that I covered in several of them—rape, sexuality, women’s roles, and breasts! Most of the reference books I’ve done, I was asked to do by editors at the various presses. The book formats and subject matter were already approved. For my recent History of American Cooking, I was told what topics should be covered, but what I think made it “me” was the touch of humor and pop culture references I included—at least I hope that comes through. My first book, Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830, was an original work, and I think groundbreaking for its time. When it came out in 1991, historians had not written very much on the subject, and some of the sources I used had not been explored at all.

One has to follow very specific guidelines in writing test items, but there is some flexibility and creativity in the types of situations one can imagine. I always have little scenes in my head—even if it is only for a fill-in-the-blank grammar sentence. I could probably give you the whole back-story on some person mentioned in the sentence. I don’t know if this is typical. Probably not.

3. Why do I write what I do? 

Well, it’s a combination of love and work. Writing academic works is definitely hard work. On good days, it’s a labor of love. On bad days, it’s just work. The same goes for the test writing. Blogging is just fun.At some point, I’d like to work on something else—perhaps a memoir or novel.

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s kind of controlled chaos. I tend to write from notes scribbled on legal pads and sticky notes (yes, backs of envelops, too—hey, if it worked for Lincoln, why not?), and half-outlines that usually change as I go. I keep various folders on my computer desktop, too. And because I’m usually working on multiple projects, there are many notepads, many books, and many folders. But somehow from all that disorder, I usually manage to submit a decent product.

I usually work at my kitchen table with books and papers all over the place. I don’t like to be closed up in a study, and I like to be able to stir a pot of soup or bake something while I work. That’s my idea of multitasking. My workspace usually looks like this:

My Faithful Companion rests on the morning newspaper

My Faithful Companion rests on the morning newspaper

Coffee is a must--usually in a mug with my older daughter's play logo

Coffee is a must–usually in a mug with my older daughter’s play logo

Sometimes this happens.

 

An additional trick--he also pulls bookmarks out of my books.

An additional trick–he also pulls bookmarks out of my books.

 

Now for the rest of the tour. I should have remembered how bad I am at playing tag. I dutifully contacted several people “behind the scenes” to see if they would like to participate, but all were busy or for various reasons declined. Did I mention that not only am I bad at tag, but I also get bored with games? People are hiding, but I don’t feel like seeking. I tend to just go off to do my own thing–probably why I’m at home writing a blog post, right?

So instead of officially “tagging” people, I’m simply going to mention a few blogs I enjoy, and if the bloggers want to pursue the “tour,” they can, and if not, oh well, I guess the tour stops here. But don’t unfasten your seat belt until we come to a full stop. We’re not there yet.

Cynthia Bertelsen’s blog, Gherkins & Tomatoes is filled with exquisite musings on food and history, along with gorgeous photography. She is the author of Mushroom: A Global History, and is now working on a history of cookbooks, which should be amazing. Her posts always make me think about the history of food in new ways. Shanna Koeningsdorf Ward is not working on a writing project, as far as I know, but her blog, Curls and Carrots, is always filled with photos of delicious dishes she has prepared, often with the help of her two adorable children. I am curious how she pulls it all off—constant cooking and baking, photography, and keeping two children amused and photo-ready—perhaps she’ll tell us how she does it.

OK. Now we’re done. I hope you enjoyed the tour.  Watch your step as you exit–you never know when a crazed blogger might jump out to tag you.

A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast

About two weeks ago I received a UPS delivery. It looked like books, and I wondered how I could have forgotten that I ordered some. I was surprised to find it was a box of brochures for my forthcoming book a Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast!

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The brochures are beautiful. I can’t wait to see the actual book!

Please recommend the book to your local and college libraries–and to anyone and everyone who might be interested! There are nearly 150 entries on a variety of breast-related topics, including Amazons, Beauty Ideals, Breast Cancer, Breastfeeding, Corsets, Dance, Eating Disorders, Pin-Up Girls, the Virgin Mary, and the Women’s Movement. The entries were written by a group of international scholars (including me!) with expertise in various disciplines and edited by yours truly.

The books should be out in August 2014, but there is a special promo code offering 25% off for pre-orders of the print copy by June 30, 2014.

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Order online at http://www.rowman.com

Email orders@rowman.com

Phone: 1-800-462-6420 or local 717-794-3800

Fax: 1-800-338-4550 or local 717-794-3803

Thanks so much for reading!

Merril