By the Book: Woodrow Wilson Center Press

Lead story, Centerpoint, February 2006

Feb 01, 2006

Woodrow Wilson Center Press is the Center's in-house book publishing program. Its titles—written by resident and non-resident scholars, scholar alumni, and staff of the Center—range from historical topics to important policy issues.

The Wilson Center founded its publishing arm in 1987. "The original aim was to raise the Center's visibility in academia," said Joe Brinley, director of the Press, who began working at the Center that year as an editor. At the time, the Center, as stated in the 1986 annual report, intended to publish books that explored "the current state of research in a field or to bring a new perspective to an established line of inquiry." The idea was to have a Center series, written by staff and scholars, based on Wilson Center seminars and conferences.

Over the years, as the staff of the Center's regional and topical programs turned to newsletters, reports, papers, and bulletins that cover current issues, more of the Press's manuscripts began coming from fellows and other resident scholars, whose projects are typically aimed at in-depth scholarly analysis.

"We want to publish books that will be referred to in 10 years," said Brinley, "ones with a long shelf-life that are ongoing bestsellers." One such example is The Origins of Terrorism, edited by Senior Scholar Walter Reich—published 15 years ago—which remains one of the Press's bestsellers.

The Center's Press produces about a dozen books each year. The Press edits and manufactures each book, then collaborates with a co-publisher—primarily Johns Hopkins and Stanford university presses—to market and sell it. "We must communicate well with the co-publishers so they understand these books that they did not develop," said Brinley, who acquires, recommends, and helps produce each book that gets published.

From the time a manuscript comes in, once accepted, it typically takes about a year, often less, to become a published book, including copyediting and proofreading, typesetting and indexing, reconciling all of the changes, and ultimately selecting a cover. In-house editor Yamile "Millie" Kahn manages this entire process.

"Once a book manuscript is finished, every author or editor wants it out tomorrow," said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Center's Latin American Program. "The Wilson Center's Press does a really good job of moving quickly through the various stages of editing and production without compromising quality." Arnson edited the book, Rethinking the Economics of War: The Intersection of Need, Creed, and Greed, published last year with former Center scholar I. William Zartman.

The Latin American Program has published a book or more with the Press each year. Arnson spoke of the tremendous challenge of compiling her book, a comparative volume with case studies from several regions, all with different histories and cultures. But having an in-house Press facilitated the process. She said, "I could walk up four floors to talk directly with our Press staff anytime and also had the advantage of the distribution network of a major university press."

Another book editor who recently worked with the Center's Press is Jan Kalicki, a non-residential public policy scholar at the Center. His book, Energy and Security: Toward a New Foreign Policy Strategy co-edited with colleague David Goldwyn, was published last year.

"This was an unusual international project involving 36 contributors from around the world, including current and former energy ministers, IEA and OPEC leaders, scholars, and practitioners," said Kalicki. "I was impressed by the excellent relationship with The Johns Hopkins University Press and the partnership in marketing the volume proactively in the scholarly, policy, and industry communities." He praised the Center's publishing committee for their candid, thorough feedback and spoke highly of Brinley and Kahn. "They are wonderful editors who worked seamlessly with us and the supporting cast from copy and art editors to printer."

The Press's books receive reviews in prestigious journals worldwide, and authors have served as commentators on public events in the broadcast and print media, most notably Kalicki, whose book on energy proved especially timely in the summer of 2005. One title last year even represented a new publishing stream. Trudy Huskamp Peterson's book, Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions, was the Center's first book published online, with paperbacks available on demand through The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Before being accepted for publication, each manuscript must pass a rigorous peer review process. These peers—subject experts, scholars, and scholar alumni—read and review the manuscripts and offer their recommendations. "We work the Center's network carefully, seeking out people who understand the kinds of books we want to publish and who can critique the work done here," said Brinley.

Next, the Publishing Committee—comprising directors of the Center's programs and other senior staff—reads the reviews and selects which manuscripts to publish. Michael Van Dusen, deputy director of the Center and chair of the Publishing Committee, said, "We give an opportunity to several preeminent scholars each year to publish their work. At the same time, the Center gets a unique opportunity to play a role in distributing superior scholarship."

Once the manuscripts are selected, the peer reviewers' comments help shape the final products. Kent Hughes, director of the Center's Program on Science, Technology, America, and the Global Economy, had a positive experience with the peer review process for his book, Building the Next American Century: The Past and Future of American Economic Competitiveness, which he wrote as a public policy scholar before joining the Center's staff.

An initial reviewer enjoyed the manuscript but suggested it could be enhanced by interviews. Hughes then modified his book, including interviews with current and former government officials and members of the private sector.

Published by the Press last year, the book was timely, arriving when the country was considering its long-term economic future, said Hughes, a former associate deputy secretary of commerce. "Nobody had written a history of the growth strategy that developed in the '80s, and I wanted to record the history before it faded," he said. "In retrospect, I realize how much the interviews taught me and contributed to a richer, more vivid description of the decade and a better book."

New Books on Anthropology, Migration
Last year, Woodrow Wilson Center Press published books by two members of the Kennan Institute's staff: Director Blair A. Ruble and Senior Associate Margaret Paxson. In January, the Center held book launches featuring each of these authors.

In Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village, co-published by Indiana University Press, Margaret Paxson takes us to a small village in the Russian north where a cluster of farmers has lived for centuries—in the time of tsars and feudal landlords; Bolsheviks and civil wars; collectivization and socialism; perestroika and open markets. Based on her anthropological fieldwork in that village, Paxson brings to life the everyday social and agricultural routines of the villagers as well as holiday observances, practices surrounding health and illness, the melding of Orthodox and communist traditions and their post–Soviet evolution, and the role of the calendar in regulating village lives. The result is a compelling ethnography of a Russian village, the first of its kind in modern, North American anthropology.

In Creating Diversity Capital: Transnational Migrants in Montreal, Washington, and Kyiv, co-published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, Blair Ruble seeks clues about how a city's capacity for urban social sustainability, termed "diversity capital," may expand under massive transnational migration. Ruble examines three cities that now receive large numbers of new immigrants but have long histories of division into just two communities of language and race: Montreal, Washington, and Kyiv. The book approaches this topic in terms of how the new immigrants live, work, and go to school and describes how the politics in each of these cities has changed, or failed to change, in the face of the new demographics. A special feature is the use of important new information on Kyiv from a set of surveys conducted by the Kennan Institute in 2001–2002.



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