Historian Erin Bartram had no plan B when she published her painfully honest “quit lit” essay in early 2018. She was sick of being on the crappy tenure-track job market, sick of making $28,000 as a visiting assistant professor and, perhaps most of all, sick of people telling her how good her work was, to keep researching and writing no matter what.
“‘But your work is so valuable,’ people say. ‘It would be a shame not to find a way to publish it,’” Bartram wrote at the time. “Valuable to whom? To whom would the value of my labor accrue? And not to be too petty, but if it were so valuable, then why wouldn’t anyone pay me a stable living wage to do it?”
Two years later, Bartram’s plan B is taking shape: she’s got a part-time job that she loves designing and delivering education programs at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Connecticut. And while she doesn’t have a full-time job that supports her academic research (that work is “DOA,” she said recently), she’s helped create a venue for — and which values — another kind of writing.
That venue is Contingent Magazine. The online history publication, now beginning its second year, is written primarily by trained historians working off the tenure track or outside of academe altogether. Its target audience is those who appreciate and enjoy history, but not necessarily academics: the magazine has some interesting traffic sources, such as high school history course websites (in additon to college and graduate school course sites). Articles are edited by historians but not peer reviewed in the traditional sense.
Contingent is funded entirely by readers, most of whom are graduate students and contingent academic historians pledging small donations. Some 210 are monthly sustainers and receive a few extra benefits. The site had 23,000 views in December. And, central to its mission, the magazine pays every single contributor, from $25 for short “postcards” from conferences, up to at least $500 for features.
Read the rest here.