(Begun by Alan Nadel, revised by Dorothy Hale and Alison Booth in 2006; and again by Margaret Homans in 2008; updated in 2012 by Jim Phelan and Irene Kacandes; updated in 2016 by Sue Lanser and Jim Phelan)
The President is the chief executive officer of the Society and has both official and informal duties. She or he presides at the two annual Business Meetings (one at the annual conference; one at MLA) and the two annual Executive Council Meetings (at the same venues). The President also serves with the First Vice President and the Second Vice President as the initial nominating committee for the Wayne C. Booth Lifetime Achievement Award. The President needs to keep the contact list for the Executive Council (e-mail and otherwise) current and to make sure that the various committees and functions of the Society proceed apace. When necessary, he or she acts as spokesperson for the Society.
The President may also undertake specific projects, usually with the advice and approval of the Executive Council, that may in some way enhance the Society. At the end of the Presidential term, she or he should communicate the ongoing issues and concerns to the incoming President. The President should keep in touch with the other officers, especially the Secretary-Treasurer and editor of Narrative and the Vice Presidents, to keep people abreast of news, stay on top of any potential problems, and lend advice. The president should also ensure that there is good communication between the conference coordinators and the Executive Council—through the Conference Liaison, the Secretary-Treasurer, or herself.
First Vice President: 1) chairs the committee for the Phelan Prize to select the best essay published in the previous year’s three issues of Narrative, with the second-year members of the Council; 2) chairs the nominating committee, with two or three society members of her/his choice, preferably reflecting the diversity of our membership in terms of geography, gender, and interests, and has nominations ready by the end of the summer; 3) serves with the President and the 2nd VP as the initial nominating committee for the Booth Award.
Second Vice President: chairs the MLA program committee on which the two third year council members also serve; serves with the President and the first VP as the initial nominating committee for the Booth Award.
Past President: (1) chairs the three-person committee for the Perkins Prize in the year immediately following her/his presidency; (2) oversees the organization of the conference panel that focuses on the work of the Booth Award winner whose election has taken place in the weeks immediately following her/his presidency. “Oversight” allows for the Past President to delegate the detailed organization to another appropriate person)’ 2) in the following year, selects and chairs the three-person committee to select the presenters for the Contemporary Narrative Theory sessions.
Executive Council members, first year: two-person prize committee to select the best graduate student paper at the Narrative conference.
Executive Council members, second year: with First VP, select the Phelan Prize winner for the best essay in Narrative.
Executive Council members, third year: with Second VP, serve on MLA program committee.
Executive Council members, in conjunction with the ex officio members of the Council, also decide on final nominations for the Booth Award.
Electronic Communications Coordinator: manages the listserv and website, including archival information and updated information on prizes, prizewinners, officers and council members; oversees web-based communications; sets up online elections and online voting on such ballot issues as changes to the constitution.
Secretary-Treasurer: maintains finances and reports on them to the Executive Council; arranges plaques and other prizes; works with the OSU Press on membership and helps maintain membership records; serves as liaison with MLA; sends out one Newsletter per year (Summer or Autumn); coordinates annual election with nominating committee and Electronics Communications Coordinator; records and distributes minutes of Executive Council meetings; works closely with President as President requests; works with Conference Liaison and conference coordinators as appropriate.
Editor of Narrative: oversees the publication of the Society’s journal; works in cooperation with authors, reviewers (including members of the Editorial Board) and the journals manager at the Ohio State University Press.
Conference Liaison: works with potential conference coordinators; reports to Council on proposals from individuals and institutions willing to host the conference; seeks to develop multi-year line-up of conference sites; advises conference coordinators as needed. (We now offer some financial support for potential conference coordinators to attend a spring conference, to encourage proposals.)
James Phelan Prize for the best essay published in Narrative: awarded to an essay chosen from the previous year’s three issues of Narrative. Prize consists of $500, a plaque, announcements at meetings and in Narrative and Newsletters, with 1-year subscription to Narrative.
Prize for the Best Graduate Student Paper delivered at the Narrative Conference: deadline, set by the committee, soon after the conference; email submissions of unrevised papers. Prize consists of a choice of a Perkins Prize winning book (in print) and encouragement to submit an article-length revision of the paper to be considered for publication in Narrative. In addition, the prize includes $500 toward expenses to attend the following year’s spring conference.
Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize for the best book published in the field with a copyright date of the previous calendar year. Prize consists of plaque, citation, and announcements (as for best essay prize, above) and an award of $1000, plus $500 toward travel to the spring conference at which the prize is presented. If the committee names two winners (an outcome that the Council does not prefer), each receives the full award. Winners of an Honorable Mention are announced and cited at the business meeting.
Wayne C. Booth Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is to be given annually until the Council decides it is time to review the frequency. The award consists of a plaque and the citation to be read at the spring conference and coverage of the winner’s expenses in attending the conference up to $2000; the award winner should be invited to attend the spring conference and to give an acceptance speech at the conference business meeting; the award also entails a panel at the spring conference on the award winner’s work and legacy.
All members of the Executive Council should be invited to submit agenda items for the meeting. The items usually covered at both Executive Council meetings include:
The first Executive Council Meeting takes place at the Narrative Conference. The President schedules the meeting (in recent years a lunch meeting on Thursday, so as to give ample time to prepare for Saturday’s Awards Lunch and not conflict with the Pedagogy Lunch, but another time slot prior to the Awards Lunch will work, so long as all Council members can attend); reserves a place for the meeting; and prepares and circulates the agenda in advance. Council members invited to the meeting are: Past President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer/Editor of Narrative, Conference Liaison, Electronic Communications Coordinator, and the six elected Council members. Since we hold elections in the fall with annual terms beginning after MLA, the newly elected Second Vice President and members at large attend their first meeting in the spring; the agenda should include a welcome of the new officers.
As with the spring meeting, the January meeting should be planned in advance to include as many members of the Executive Council as possible. Because many of the Executive Council members have busy MLA schedules, setting up the meeting is not an easy task. Often the meeting is 7-8:30AM on a morning prior to the 9PM Business Meeting at the annual party, but if that time does not work, early on the first evening of the convention may work. A breakfast or lunch meeting should take about an hour and a half, while a cocktail hour meeting could be done in 45 minutes. The President schedules the meeting, reserves a place for it (and reconfirms the reservation; the MLA hotel restaurants can be busy even at 7AM), and prepares and circulates the agenda. The MLA meeting agenda should include announcement of election results.
The Business meeting in general reflects the material covered in the Executive Council meeting. It should always include reports on the finances, the journal, and future conferences.
Spring Business Meeting (Awards Lunch)
This meeting, during the scheduled lunch on the Saturday of the conference, usually includes thanks for the current hosts of the conference and introduction of the next organizers; reports from the journal and the society; solicitation of nominations for graduate student essay prize, Perkins Prize, and (as needed) for the Booth Award; and other announcements, including one about the forthcoming MLA special sessions, and the result of any ballot initiatives. In addition, members should be alerted to the upcoming process of nominations for Executive Council and Second Vice President and should be encouraged to submit names to the nominating committee. The Awards Lunch concludes with the formal awarding of the Society’s prizes. In each case, an officer or council member who has been part of the selection process will read a citation and the recipient, if present, will have the opportunity to make a brief acceptance speech.
January Business Meeting
This meeting takes place during the Narrative party at the MLA. It is usually brief but typically includes a financial report, a report on the journal, announcement of election results and introduction of any new EC members present, information about upcoming Narrative conferences and MLA sessions for the current and coming year, any other time-sensitive news, announcement of the Perkins Prize and Graduate Paper Prize, and thank-yous to outgoing EC members.
The major committees that need to run smoothly are: Nominations, MLA Program, and the prize committees: for best graduate student paper at the spring conference, for the Phelan Prize, the Perkins Prize, and for the Booth Lifetime Achievement Award. There is also a competition for International Graduate Student Travel awards, which is overseen by the President and the editor of the journal.
The nominating committee is chaired by the First Vice President, with two members of the Narrative Society of her or his choice. While there are no rules governing the appointment of the additional members of this committee, the inclusion of individuals who are not on the Executive Council is intended to aid in broadening the social, intellectual, and institutional diversity of the Society’s elected governing body. The names of the entire committee should be announced on the listserv and that notice should indicate that nominations from the membership, including self-nominations, can be sent to the First Vice President by a specified deadline. During the spring and early summer, the First VP normally consults with the President and the Secretary-Treasurer for information about previous nominations and questions about eligibility; names of past officers and Council members are on the website. All such suggestions, however, are advisory; the nominating committee sets the final slate of candidates. In making their selections, the committee should agree on backups, as rarely do all six people accept the nominations.
For Second Vice President, the nominee must have been a member of the Society for three years and attended at least three of the last five Narrative Conferences. For member of the Executive Council, the nominee must be a member in good standing of the Society. Nominees should be checked for eligibility by the Secretary-Treasurer. In keeping with a decision of the Executive Council in 1995, the elections for Executive Council are often organized so that candidates with certain identity markers (e.g., gender, specialty within narrative studies, geographic location) run against each other. This procedure enables the nominating committee, over a period of time, to maintain gender and other kinds of balance on the Executive Council, including balance between U.S. and non-U.S. candidates. The committee should continue to try to include representation of foreign languages and of disciplines other than literature. Selection of nominees should be done with an eye to bringing diversity to the Society and also to providing significant institutional history. In connection with that institutional history, recent conference coordinators often become nominees.
Once a list of nominees has been agreed upon, the First Vice President invites the nominees to run for election and fields their questions and responses. Nominees should be informed of the beginning and ending dates of their potential terms. Seats on the Executive Council are for three calendar years (beginning AFTER the January MLA), while the office of VP is a four-year commitment (second VP, first VP, President, Past President). Nominees for all positions should also be advised of the importance of attending the Council meetings, and they should be able to commit to attending at least one of the two meetings every year. If they are unable to make such a commitment, they should decline the nomination. When a nominee accepts, he or she should be asked to provide a short biographical note for the ballot in the fall. The nominating committee should complete its work, including the compiling of the short biographies, by the end of the summer so that an election can take place in October. After the election, the First Vice-President should inform the candidates of the results and send the winners a copy of this Guidesheet.
Ex officio members of the Council. The Secretary-Treasurer, Editor of Narrative, Conference Liaison, and Electronic Communications Coordinator have five-year renewable terms. The terms for the current Secretary-Treasurer and editor of Narrative end in 2017, that of the Conference Coordinator in 2018, and that of the Electronic Communications Coordinator in 2019. In 2015 the EC added a short-term position of Assistant Conference Liaison to enable a transition to a new Liaison.
The MLA Program Committee is composed of the Second Vice President (chair) and the two members of the Executive Council serving in their third year. The committee evaluates proposals to chair panels sponsored by the Society at the MLA. As an Allied Organized, ISSN has one guaranteed panel on the program; with the opportunity to compete for up to two others (though experience suggests that getting one more is doing well and our practice has been to seek only that one more). The likelihood of holding a second panel is increased if sponsored in conjunction with another Allied Organization and/or if the topic is related to that year’s MLA Presidential theme. Only current members of the Society may submit proposals, but participation on the panels should be open to all MLA members. The call for proposals should appear in the Summer Newsletter and be announced on the Narrative list and in the fall issue of Narrative (October). In summer and fall, the Second Vice President should also be in touch with the Electronic Communications Coordinator about disseminating the call beyond the membership. The proposals should go to the Second Vice President, and the deadline should be sometime in mid-November. In the past we have received between two and sixteen proposals.
If there are not enough good proposals to choose from by mid-November, the nominating committee, in consultation with other members of the Executive Council, may devise its own proposal and seek out someone to chair it and to solicit papers from the MLA membership. Under special circumstances, a member of the Council may organize a panel with invited speakers (e.g. the panel Dori Hale organized as a memorial to Ralph Rader at the 2008 MLA).
Immediately after the deadline, the Second Vice President should send copies of the proposals to the committee members and coordinate discussion to arrive at a consensus. In mid-December those selected should be notified by phone or email and so should those not selected. The selected chairs should be provided with the necessary contact information so that the call for papers can appear in the MLA Newsletter. The deadline for the MLA Newsletter is usually immediately after New Year, so it is best for the chairs to send the announcement before winter break with a copy to the Second Vice President and the Secretary-Treasurer. (Note: MLA will ask the Society liaison—in our case the Secretary-Treasurer—to approve the panel titles, so it is important that he be informed about the panels. In addition, the MLA restricts the posting of the program information for Allied Organizations to the liaison between MLA and the AO. Therefore, once the panel chairs have selected their papers, they need to send the relevant info to the Secretary-Treasurer in time for him to meet the MLA deadline of early April.)
Starting in January, the First Vice President should make sure that all members of the committee (the First VP plus the two second-year Council members) have copies of the previous year’s three issues of Narrative. The First VP should set a preliminary deadline for discussion (by email or phone) of a short list of candidates. The winner should be selected sufficiently in advance of the spring conference to enable him/her to attend, and to allow time for preparing the plaque that will be presented at the conference. A committee member writes a citation to be read by the First VP at the Awards Luncheon.
The two first-year members of the Executive Council consider submissions and select a winner, who is notified by the Secretary-Treasurer. The committee coordinates with the spring conference organizers to announce the prize, set deadlines, and provide instructions for submitting papers. A decision should be made by October 1 and announced electronically as well as at the MLA business meeting in January. Notice of the prize and of the deadline and address for submissions should appear in the conference program, on the website, and on the listserv, and it should be announced at the spring Awards Luncheon. The prize committee writes a citation to be read at the following year’s conference Awards Luncheon.
The Perkins Prize Committee is chaired by the Past President and includes two other members selected by the Chair. Wherever possible, one member should be selected from the group of past winners and the second member should not have served previously on this committee. (A forward-looking President will be thinking about possible committee members during the presidential year.) The June 1 deadline for nominations and self-nominations should be publicized on the listserv and announced at the Awards Luncheon when the conference occurs before June 1. Authors nominating their own books should ask their publishers to send a copy to each of the three committee members; in the case of nominations by others, the Past President solicits copies from the publisher. The winner should be announced through the listserv by November and is asked to attend the spring conference. The news is also announced at the MLA Business Meeting. A member of the committee writes the citation to be read at the Awards Luncheon that takes place at the annual conference.
The President and the two Vice Presidents serve as an initial nominating committee charged with identifying five or six candidates. (Solicitation of the membership via the listserv is recommended as a way to identify potential candidates.) The other members of the Executive Committee (minus those who can vote in the next step) then discuss the nominees at the MLA meeting of the Council. Subsequently, the president conducts a confidential email ballot for ranking the nominees; the top three ranked nominees become the finalists. A larger group consisting of all past ISSN presidents and past Booth Award winners then ranks the three finalists to select the winner.
The President notifies the winner and invites him or her to attend the following spring’s conference and to give a brief acceptance speech at the Awards Lunch. Normally the award entails a special session at the conference during which the work of the nominee is discussed; the President will take responsibility for organizing the session—sometimes by designating some other member of the Society to take the lead. The award should be announced publicly each fall and with considerable fanfare (perhaps, for example, with a press release to such publications as the Chronicle of Higher Education).
The Booth Award process is confidential from start to finish. Those who participate at each stage are enjoined to confidentiality, and no nominee except the winner is ever notified that s/he is on the ballot.
The EC is charged with reviewing this procedure five years after it is instituted (that is, in 2017.)
Criteria for all candidates: Toward the end of their careers, defined as (a) after 30 years of publication in (b) the field of narrative studies, rather than for contributions to a particular historical period or to critical theory in general.
In 2015 the Society agreed to allocate $2,000 per year to fund five international travel grants of $400 each, for students currently registered for a postgraduate degree at a higher education institution on a continent other than the one where the conference will take place. (“Continent” will refer to North America, South/Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia or Australasia.) The Executive Council approved the following procedures to disburse the funds:
This role is not always called for. In 1996, the MLA misclassified the Society as an “affiliate organization,” rather than an “allied organization,” thus reducing us to one MLA special session slot. Correcting this error required a few phone calls. At other times, it can be quite demanding. For example, when the Society severed its ties with Eastern Michigan University, a sustained dispute arose over the relationship of our membership list to the subscription list of “The Journal of Narrative Technique,” which resulted in prolonged correspondence. These matters, for the most part, cannot be anticipated.
Occasionally the Secretary-Treasurer/Editor of Narrative will request authorization for the spending of the Society’s funds, e.g., for the purchase of a printer for the journal (as happened in 2006). The President should exercise her judgment about either approving the funds or asking the Council to vote on the request.
Because the Narrative Conference and the journal are the heart of the Society, planning a succession of conferences is vital to the Society’s health. This is the primary task of the Conference Liaison; Alan Nadel, the current Liaison, has written an instructional manual on how to organize a Narrative conference. The President should support this effort as much as possible. Either the President or the Conference Liaison should stay in touch with people who express an interest in coordinating future conferences, supply them with the information they need to assess their school’s and their locale’s potential to support a conference, and gather from them adequate information to allow the Executive Council to make a reasoned decision about their proposals. Since 2008, the Society has followed a policy of contributing $200 in conference expenses (travel and lodging) and waiving registration fees for each of four committed or potential coordinators attending the annual conference. Any coordinator may receive the funding only once; a maximum of two coordinators from any one future conference site are eligible for the funding; and the supported individuals must be candidates to host the conference within three years (exceptions may be granted by unanimous agreement of the Conference Liaison, the President, and the Secretary-Treasurer).
In the past, Presidents have often taken on special tasks, projects, or legislative reforms. Janice Carlisle, for example, initiated the Perkins Prize. Jay Clayton created the Narrative listserv, and Alan Nadel wrote a Narrative Conference Handbook and the first version of this Guidesheet. In the legislative area, we have, among other things, gone to competitive elections and online ballots, become an allied organization of the MLA and formalized the process for selecting our MLA special sessions, and inaugurated the Newcomers Dinner tradition at annual conferences.
The outgoing President should also send the incoming President (1) the contact info for all the members of the Executive Council and (2) a letter on current concerns and unfinished business.