If you are yet to be published, it can seem like an arduous road lies before you. Fear not! I will share with you my rather ordinary passage into publication in the hope of providing some insight and inspiration for your journey ahead.
You are probably wondering what I have had published to know whether it is worth your time to continue reading. I hear you. While I do not have an extensive repertoire, my current publications are as follows: two articles in peer-reviewed journals, two book chapters with Cambridge University Press, two literary prizes with the University of Sydney, several conference papers and abstracts, educational resources with the Sydney Jewish Museum, features in fashion magazines and countless articles in university student magazines. Getting published, from my own experience, takes a combination of resourcefulness, harnessing opportune moments and networking. And, of course, writing (something worth sharing, ideally, but that is another article in itself).
My first piece of advice for you is: get resourceful. Repurpose and re-work old material and find places to submit it. (Cliché of choice number one: don’t reinvent the wheel). I began publishing articles as an undergraduate student for the University of Sydney student magazine called The Bull. I responded to call for articles and submitted one I had already written for a personal blog I had kept since high school (and no, you cannot have the link). When one piece was accepted, I sent more through – some I had previously written and others new. They were mostly a mixture of observation comedy and existential musings. During this time, I also sent creative writing to other university magazines and indie publications, where I was grateful to get a short story accepted into a student-run book publication. My first few green lights into the publishing world, so to speak, gave me the confidence to continue submitting work.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, I had received positive feedback for some of my essays and creative pieces, so I decided to anonymously submit a few to the University’s literary prizes. Out of my several submissions, I was fortunate enough to have two selected for scholarships, one a historical study on the Holocaust and the other on biblical allusions in literature and popular culture. They now live in the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library, both online and in print form (and yes, I will happily give you the link to these ones). Essentially, my publications stemmed from repurposed material that I tailored to meet the criteria of the literary prizes or student magazine (that is, word count, referencing style, angle, etc.).
My second piece of advice for you is: harness opportune moments. Respond to calls for papers, subscribe to journals and organisations you are interested in and say “yes” to volunteer opportunities to review or edit work. (Cliché of choice number two: respond to the call). Towards the end of my degree, I undertook some self-directed (unpaid) internships (because, let’s be honest, an arts degree wasn’t going to do that for me). During my placements with the Sydney Jewish Museum and a fashion magazine in the CBD, I conducted interviews with Holocaust survivors, published educational material on the Holocaust for secondary students, and composed features on fashion, women, and culture. These publication successes came from crafting my own opportunities in areas I felt I could contribute to or learn from.
This outlook is how I came to be published with Cambridge University Press. As an early career teacher in History, I subscribed to the publisher’s updates on textbooks and resources. One fine day, they sent out a survey looking for people interested in reviewing their books and publications, and I, being the nerd that I am, thought ‘what the heck?’. A year later I received a personal email from their educational publisher seeking authors for their upcoming History textbook series. After a few emails, phone calls and the sharing of my CV and writing portfolio, I was hired to write two chapters for their textbooks on the Year 8 NSW and VIC curriculums, both now published in the last six months.
My third piece of advice to you is: network. Attend conferences, join research groups and connect with like-minded professionals on social media. (Cliché of choice number three: put yourself out there). It was from this mindset that my academic journal publications came to fruition. Before my first journal article was published last year, I had attended and presented at several conferences across Australia in History, Studies of Religion and Education. I will admit that there were many opportune moments that I didn’t take, where publication was offered based on my presentations, but for whatever reason at the time, I didn’t follow through. I mourn for the road not taken (hence why my Advice No. 2 is so important). Nonetheless, the networking from these conferences was invaluable for my publishing journey, for I was able to connect and share ideas with kindred spirits, one of whom was an editor for the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies and requested my contribution. From this networking opportunity, my article based on the research I conducted my conference paper was published.
My second journal publication came from all the elements of my triple-threat methodology. In the first subject of my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship), I wrote an essay on the library as a ‘Third Place’ and hub of wellbeing (Advice No. 1). As part of my research, I joined the Charles Sturt University’s teacher librarian group on Facebook to seek advice and article recommendations (Advice No. 3). Through this network, I was put in contact with the editor for the School Libraries Association of Victoria (SLAV) journal, Synergy. My essay was of interest to them, and they requested to view it for publication once I had completed it, to which I agreed (Advice No. 2). To my delight, it has been accepted for publication this June.
I hope my journey into publishing has shown you how possible it is for you too. While my approach is not exhaustive, and most definitely not ‘the gold standard’, it has so far worked for me. My final piece of advice for you is to talk to as many people as you can who are published and find out their processes and pathways. From there, I have no doubt your own roadmap will start to manifest as you navigate each corner, speed bump and pothole along the way to your first green light.
Danielle Raffaele, Teacher and Learning Librarian