(I wrote this piece for Taylor & Francis Author Services blog. Hopefully it’s helpful!)
In 2016, I was surprised and delighted to win the Theatre and Performance Research Association postgraduate essay prize for my essay, ‘Narrative dysfunction in The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh and On Raftery’s Hill by Marina Carr’, about storytelling in contemporary Irish drama. (I’d encourage every postgrad working on theatre/ performance to apply!) The prize included the essay being considered for publication in one of Routledge’s theatre and performance journals. As a newbie to the discipline, I turned to TaPRA’s Research Officer Dr Jo Robinson for advice on which journal would be the best fit, and then I tentatively submitted my essay to Studies in Theatre and Performance.
1. Have confidence in yourself and your writing
I entered the TaPRA essay prize on a whim during my master’s degree and was very surprised when I heard that I had been shortlisted, let alone to win first prize. I was encouraged by TaPRA’s Research Officer Dr Jo Robinson to submit my essay to Studies in Theatre and Performanceand it was accepted with minor revisions. The whole process was a real boost to my confidence, as it was an external validation of my work by academics I’d never met. My advice for postgraduate and early career researchers: enter that essay competition! Submit your painstakingly reworked article to that journal! You never know what may come of it.
2. Peer reviewers aren’t out to get you
There are lots of scary stories out there about soul-destroying peer reviews, but mine were actually very fair and constructive. One of them offered some helpful reading suggestions for my theoretical approach; I ended up disagreeing with the recommended books, but it helped me situate my argument in a gap in the critical literature. The peer review reports gave me a new perspective on my work, and helped me to clarify my argument and writing style.
3. Editors want to help you write the best article possible
Associate Editor of Studies in Theatre and Performance, Dr Jacqueline Bolton, kindly agreed to mentor me through the publication process. She reassured me about peer review, answered my copyright questions, and gave me an extension when edits took longer than I thought. Her help was invaluable at demystifying how academic journals work.
4. Don’t be afraid of change
Although ‘kill your darlings’ is a cliché, it proved good advice for my editing process. My ‘darling’ was the title, which originally started with a quotation from one of the plays. One of the peer reviewers pointed out it wasn’t actually that relevant to the essay. But it was such a good quote! I cut it. Between my first draft (which, incidentally, was draft five in my own personal drafting process) and my second draft, I changed a lot, including completely rewriting the introduction. I’m glad I did; it became a much stronger article because of it.
5. Be patient
The publication process is a long one. Apparently mine was very quick – but it still felt long, particularly as I was making PhD applications at the time and wondering when exactly it would be legitimate to put ‘publication forthcoming’ on my CV. Nevertheless, seeing your words in print in one of the top theatre journals and cajoling your friends and family into at least pretending they’ve read them is worth the wait.
Thank you to Dr Jo Robinson, Professor Joanne Tompkins and TaPRA, Dr Jacqueline Bolton and the Studies in Theatre and Performance editors and reviewers, and the Routledge Author Services team, for helping me get my first journal article published.
You can read my article on Enda Walsh and Marina Carr here.