Congratulations to third-year Ph.D. student, Cara Byrne, on the publication of her article “Visual Statements in Shakespearean Adaptations: Illustrating Romeo and Juliet for Children” in ImageTexT in April 2013!
You can read Byrne’s article in ImageTexT here.
Byrne graciously agreed to share her advice on publishing article for the first time with the EGSA.
Publishing an Article for the First Time
by Cara Byrne
In April 2013, I published an article titled “Visual Statements in Shakespearean Adaptations: Illustrating Romeo and Juliet for Children” in ImageTexT, a peer-reviewed online journal for interdisciplinary comic studies. After submitting the paper to ImageTexT in March of 2012, it was accepted in late July and then published nine months later. I spent about a year rereading, rewriting and revising the paper– sharing it with professors, fellow graduate students, and friends alike for feedback. After taking Professor Kurt Koenigsberger’s publication seminar during the fall 2011 semester, I felt prepared to begin revising seminar papers for publication and sending them out to journals, yet taking a paper and making it journal-ready brought on new and unexpected challenges.
While studying at Bowling Green State University, I took a class from Dr. Stephannie Gearhart about Shakespearean adaptations. We looked at contemporary plays, art, and novels, analyzing adaptation theory and thinking about how these works challenged, enhanced, and/or sustained Shakespeare’s reputation. Her class inspired me to think about visual adaptations in particular, lending close reading skills to texts with both words and pictures. Years later in 2010, when completing my Master’s at CWRU, I took Professor Kenny Fountain’s Visual Rhetoric cross-listed seminar, which gave me a critical vocabulary to describe the work that pictures do – especially in their ability to make statements and support textual arguments. I wrote a short response about a Shakespearean adaptation that has disturbed and intrigued me for years: Lois Burdett (& students’) picture book Shakespeare Can be Fun! Romeo and Juliet. In discussing this paper with classmates, it quickly became clear that most had not seen the text nor realized that many of Shakespeare’s works have been adapted for children. From these conversations and my own interest in the works, I knew wanted to keep working on this, especially as I increasingly knew that children’s literature would be one of my areas. I wrote a seminar paper analyzing 6 different Romeo and Juliet-inspired picture books for children. In the paper, I asked whether these works were making visual arguments or visual statements, engaging in an issue written about by visual rhetoricians for decades. I turned it in to Dr. Fountain in November 2010.
The Publishing Process
After letting this paper sit for a year, Dr. Fountain emailed me after he saw a Call for Papers from ImageTexT. The editors were looking for submissions that “investigat[ed] the intersection between Shakespeare and visual rhetoric,” and they specifically were interested in articles that “expand[ed] the thinking of the word/image relationship beyond the comic book” (to see the exact CFP, click here). Before sending my paper in for consideration, I made a checklist based on the criteria listed in the CFP, making sure that my paper met what the editors were asking for. I also read through the last 10 issues of ImageTexT and their website content, familiarizing myself with the tone of the journal, as well as trying to best grasp who was part of this journal’s audience. I then spent my weekends and my spring break completely rewriting the first 4 pages and the last two pages of the paper, readjusting my analysis to fit an audience of those interested in visual rhetoric as opposed to children’s literature theory. Not engaging with the topic for a year meant that I needed to go back and reread the sources I originally put in the paper, as well as request all of the picture books from OhioLink. Yet, the yearlong distance also gave me time to refine my focus and cut out a lot of unnecessary information from the paper. After submitting the paper two days before the deadline on March 13th, 2012, I heard back from the journal editors on July 30th saying that they accepted the article, but would like to me to make several minor revisions, including reworking my conclusion and adding more images. A luxury of this being an online journal is that they/I did not have to ask permission or pay to add the copyrighted images to the article. They gave me notes from the editorial board, listing the paper’s strengths and weaknesses. The editors gave me until the end of September to make the changes they requested, and they published the article in April 2013. After years of working on this paper and emailing back and forth with different professors at CWRU and with the editors of ImageTexT, it was incredibly exciting to see my work “in print.”
Helpful Advice I Received
While it is always challenging to add additional deadlines and work to our plates while meeting the other requirements of graduate school, this was a very worthwhile pursuit, for I received great feedback and was able to communicate with people in my field who are at other universities. Early on, I was encouraged by professors to submit papers to journals or edited collections that were related to my areas, but were not potential chapter-material for my dissertation. This was great advice, especially since I have written seminar papers that pertain to my interests (picture books, visual rhetoric, young adult literature) without overlapping with what I see myself writing while dissertating. Another great piece of advice I received and followed is to revise seminar papers that can fit a CFP with a little work. I am currently revising a paper about The Hunger Games and matrophobia for an edited book about feminism’s inner-conflicts. This article was accepted for publication in late April 2013, after I happened to see another CFP in December 2012 that seemed related to a paper I had just completed in a seminar I took with Mary Grimm. Based on my experiences, I would encourage others to keep on eye on calls for papers through UPenn’s CFP website and organization websites that relate to your areas (for me, this includes Children Literature Association) and then try submitting a paper once you have a good grasp on the journal’s or edited book’s audience and feel confident about it, even if the project is not exactly where you want it to be to be when these special issue or edited book calls are posted. And good luck!