2007 Annual Seminar on the Old Testament in the New (Durham, UK)

The Annual Seminar on the OT in the New will take place at St. John’s College of Durham University March 29-31.  Papers will be given by experts such as Lionel North, Maarten Menken and Steve Moyise.  It seems that there will only be about two dozen people in attendance – it wasn’t publicized widely.  However, this is a fascinating topic and literature on ‘intertextuality’ is quickly growing.  If you are in the area, it is permissible to register on the day.

Kent Richards leans over to me and says…

Who is Kent Richards? He’s the the executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature. It was the northeastern regional conference of SBL and I was ‘working’ the conference on behalf of Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA). My job was to sell our books and basically schmooz with professors and talk up HP. Not a difficult job. Kent Richards was managing the SBL book table – did he lose a bet? I don’t know. Anyway, we got talking and it came up that I had just got accepted to study at Durham in NT for a PhD. He asked me what I might like to do when I was done. I said that I wanted to become a professor and teach and research fulltime…recognizing the number of out of work PhD’s in New Testament Kent Richards leans over to me and says ‘Have you ever thought of going into editorial work?’ Sure he likes his raquet, but he was also hinting at the small likelihood that I could actually fulfill my aspirations. Folks, Kent Richards is a smart man.

About a year ago or so, Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus (a third branch of the main Hamilton campus) was hiring for New Testament. They were inundated with applications from PhD’s (in hand) who were absolutely desparate for real work. They had academics who studied at Cambridge and Oxford. They had perfect GPA students. They had loads of options. Good for them. Not for us.

So, a Kent Richards is picking up on something. Joining the Publishing world has become a viable option for some of those who cannot find work elsewhere. Its not as easy as it sounds, though. Some people think they can just look around and find a job as an ‘editor’ at a publishing company. Editors, however, have a very difficult task – they have to be experts in their field – conversant in the latest research as well as the history of interpretation. They need to have high proficiency in many languages, ancient and modern (at least German). They need to be basically schooled in the major hermeneutical approaches so they can follow the theoretical and methodological approaches of the books they are editing. They need to have a large vocabulary and the attention span of 10 PhD students combined! Not easy. let me tell you, the OT editor at Hendrickson is one of my favorite people in the world and he is absolutely brilliant at what he does. Did I mention that he went through the ANET program at Harvard for his PhD. Or take the major theology editor at WJK – Donald McKim. I met him at a regional conference of SBL – he writes his own books and publishes them with other publishing companies – that’s smart. What am I getting at? Well, for starters, a new PhD hardly stands a chance at editing.

But…and this is important, freelancing is quite common for ABD’s and PhD students and graduates who have the time. The pay is decent and the work environment is flexible – work from home, negotiate the hours, good pay. The challenge is that publishing companies are very private. They don’t want you to pester them with requests to freelance. So what do you do? Find an in. Is there a professor who publishes often with a particular press that can recommend you? That is probably the best ‘in’. Of course you can’t quite live on the pay unless you get very regular offers to freelance – which is not common. Some people make it their profession, but its a bit like being in an indie rock band – flexibility but little security.

That’s my perspective.