Publishing Journal Articles: Interview with Debra Kelly

We recently heard from Marisa Linton and Emile Chabal on publishing articles and edited volumes. This week, the Editor of the Journal of War and Culture Studies Professor DEBRA KELLY (Westminster) shares her experience both as an author and as an editor.


What was the first article you published ?

My background is in literary studies and my first fully refereed article in a scholarly journal was based on the research for my PhD on a neglected figure of the French twentieth-century avant-garde, the poet, painter, sculptor and writer, Pierre Albert-Birot, known as PAB to those who knew him and to those who still value his work. It was entitled ‘From Painter to Poet: the visual poetry of Pierre Albert-Birot in La Lune ou le livre des poemes’. As well as analysing a selection of these visual poems as integral to PAB’s work, it encapsulated – in many fewer words (!) – the crux of my thesis about the effects of training as a sculptor and painter on the structures of literary creation in both poetic and narrative forms. As I remember, I had originally sent a book proposal to Edinburgh University Press, and I was still thrilled when the reply came from the editor there that the book wasn’t accepted, but he would very much like to publish some of my work as an article in Forum for Modern Language Studies. It appeared in Vol. xxxii, no 1, 1996 (so this year is the 20th anniversary in fact!). I’ve just looked at the off-print, it holds a very good memory (and the book also eventually found a publisher…)


What inspired you to start the Journal of War and Culture Studies ?

The Group for War and Culture Studies, founded in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Westminster in 1995, had a frequent research seminar programme and an annual conference. I’d had some reasonable success getting papers published in collective edited volumes (France at War in the 20th century: propaganda, myth and metaphor; Remembering and Representing the Experience of War in 20th century France), but this was becoming increasingly difficult and frustrating. I felt a strong sense of, not really obligation, but responsibility to ​get at least some of the excellent papers we heard published and shared with others in this newly-established field. Research seminars in particular are so often ephemeral, although the work done there does often develop and get published eventually, I just felt that I wanted to share the often privileged moments we had together as we all worked to think about war differently and in cultural terms. In 2008 I had a good collection of about five issues for a journal ready ‘up-front’ as it were, and this was enough to convince Intellect in the first instance to take on a new journal. I’ll always be grateful to Intellect for that; wewere then sold to Maney and are now with Taylor and Francis, and going from strength to strength.


As editor of the journal, what do you look for in articles?

Well, in addition to making a new contribution to the field which is obvious, the article must fit with the remit of the journal which, in its strictest sense, focuses on the impact of war on cultural production, understood as cultural artefacts, although we’re also interested in cultural relations and the cross-over with social issues as long as the link to cultural production remains clear. You would be amazed at the stuff we get sent which has nothing to do with the way we understand ‘culture’ and make clear in the journal remit. We always remain helpful, however, and try to suggest other usually more political or military history focused journals they might try…


What 3 tips would you give young scholars looking to publish their first article?

See above: remit, remit, remit!!

Don’t send articles that don’t fit the journal’s aims

Do adhere to the style guide and word limit (please! it will only get sent straight back for editing…)

Be bold (if you have done all of the above….); some of the greatest pleasure of being a journal editor is working with young scholars on what we guess is their first article, just as the editor of Forum for Modern Language Studies ​did with me, twenty years ago… (thank you).


Professor Debra Kelly, University of Westminster

Editor of the Journal of War and Culture Studies.


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