Composition Studies got its start in 1972 as the Freshman English Newsletter. Early issues were defined by brevity and practicality: many entries were a column or two on a single page, offering helpful advice in casual language about the everyday problems facing teachers. For example, one piece from the second issue advises teachers on pedagogical practices for minority students, while another describes curricular innovation at Forest Park Community College in St. Louis. Today, the chatty tone of these newsletters has given way to a commitment to robust peer-reviewed scholarship. Composition Studies won an award in 2017 recognizing its inclusive editorial practices, and we’re proud of the work the journal continues to produce. We also see an ongoing need for the informal, practical conversations hosted in the original newsletter. To meet this need, we are proud to introduce FEN Blog, so titled in honor of the Freshman English Newsletter.
We envision that the blog will invite brief, experiential accounts of what is happening in our classrooms, administrative work, and research. Coming alongside the peer reviewed research in our host journal, the blog promises to expand what stories are told in the field and who tells them.
The need for a blog has been on the Composition Studies journal editors’ minds for a long time. Yet the twin exigencies of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement accelerated this vision, since they made clear the importance of a space which allows us to address issues in a timely fashion. Equally important, a blog also provides a platform for people minoritized within higher education and peer-reviewed publishing — including Black scholars, scholars of color, contingent faculty, and graduate students — to address the ongoing questions raised by our diverse, varied experiences.
Working outside the constraints of peer reviewed scholarship permits FEN Blog several advantages, among them a more conversational tone and wider range of affordances. We hope that contributors will write in their own language, producing short(er) pieces that center their expertise in the classroom. Especially for contingent faculty or graduate students, FEN Blog provides a much-needed space to address the field.
Among the affordances a blog platform offers is the opportunity to include multimodal composing –– images embedded into the piece to illustrate, hyperlinks to expand discussion, or audio/visual elements to amplify. Each post will include a featured image, either provided by the writer or selected by the editorial team, and readers/contributors are encouraged to design an image if they want. The comments field, as well as sharing options on social media, will spark responsive, ongoing conversations among readers from a variety of positions.
We’re not the first journal to create a blog. Teacher-Scholar-Activist, Cultural Rhetorics’ Pedagogy Blog, and the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative are strong players in the field, and their voices are valued. Unlike these more focused blogs, however, FEN Blog, much like Composition Studies, looks to take pieces that “don’t fit neatly in other spaces,” making room for a wide range of contributions that help us think about composition scholarship and education broadly.
Over the next few months, FEN Blog will feature posts by scholars whose work speaks to the field as it stands right now. Each scholar will choose an important keyword –– such as rhetorics or accessibility –– and share with us what it means for ongoing work in writing and teaching.
Later this spring, we plan to put out a CFP for blog posts sharing stories grounded in authors’ own expertise and research interests. Whether from the classroom, the writing or multiliteracy center, or professional life experience, we hope to nurture a welcoming space uniquely situated to open dialogue, offer wisdom, and posit questions from all walks of the composition field; in this vein, we particularly encourage graduate students and contingent faculty to submit. Submissions are scheduled to go live this summer.
We encourage you to consider submitting to FEN Blog! Our guidelines for submissions and pitches are already live, and we are eager to start sharing material from the general public as early as late summer or early autumn. Submissions will be posted every three weeks to start, then will move to every other week, giving us the ability to address current events, whether public (protests or elections) or academic (start-of-term activities, campus life issues, etc.) as they are happening.
Continuing the work of the Freshman English Newsletter, FEN Blog will be able to further the reach of Composition Studies among wider audiences. At the heart of our work is a commitment to inclusivity, centering marginalized voices in the field, as well as emphasizing currency in a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. We are thrilled to welcome you to FEN Blog, and we hope you will read, subscribe, and consider submitting!