My children finished school for the academic year today. Universities have been celebrating graduations. Emails about induction week are starting to circulate. It must be the start of the summer holidays.
This summer, in between childcare duties, I have several projects to work on – a couple of applications, two articles to (re)write, a very overdue book review, some engagement events to prep for. But my main goal, as I keep telling people, is working out what my next book is going to be about. And the problem I have (which is a nice one to have, but no less problematic for that) is an embarrassment of riches. I have three possibilities but probably only the mental space and energy to concentrate on one of them. They are as follows:
1) The book I need to write. This is the book I have promised the funders that I would produce from the Men, Women and Care project. It is a book about disability, masculinity, temporality and the life cycle; about care giving, emotions and gender; about the history of the welfare state, the family and the role of the individual in negotiating the spaces where the two overlap. It will be a very academic book, a book which will use words like ‘temporality’, ‘hegemony’ and even, if today’s reading is anything to go by, even ‘phenomenology’. It is a book that may, eventually becoming the articulation of the most significant intervention I will ever make into the historiography of masculinities and the First World War. At the moment, it is unfocused and under-researched.
2) The book I have promised myself I will write. In January, I tweeted that my resolution for the year was to write the ‘trade’ version of my recent academic book on the history of the RAMC in the First World War. This one, I have done the research on. I also have a chapter and a half in draft, about five different plans of chapter breakdowns and a great deal of excellent advice from colleagues about how to approach this project. What I don’t have, yet, is either a clear, saleable thesis, or a proper strategy for finding myself an agent, which is very much the next thing I need to do to get this off the ground.
3) The book I want to write. For years now I have been talking about doing a project on the representation of trauma in detective fiction – and I still want to do it, not least so I can write properly Ellis Peters’ George Felse novels. But, after talking about the project for so long without actually doing anything about it, I am starting to think there may be a less academic, more experimental book that I need to write first, about Golden Age detective fiction and contemporary novels set in the Golden Age, how both use images of and references to the First World War and what the differences between these two forms of the genre can tell us about gender, memory and commemoration. I’m pretty sure I have the argument for this one, and I find myself writing bits and pieces at odd intervals, but I also need to dedicate a lot more time to (re)reading the works of Jacqueline Winspear, Frances Brody, Kerry Greenwood, as well as some of the more obscure members of the Detection Club if this is going to be the book I really want it to be.
So those are my options, three projects, all of which require time commitment in different ways. Alongside the continuing work needed for the final year of Men, Women and Care, the teaching and administration I’ve agreed to undertake and my family commitments, there is barely room for one of them, let alone all three! So I am looking for advice: which one of these do I prioritise this summer?
(And the ‘and counting’? That would be the book I dream of writing – the detective novel in the style of Dorothy L. Sayers, with a plot based around an ex-servicemen’s association and post-war battlefield pilgrimages. Some day…)