Looking Ahead: FEN Blog’s New Editors Talk Year Two

Ben Hojem | Guilford College

Jada Patchigondla | University of California, Los Angeles

Jada Patchigondla and Ben Hojem are the incoming editors of the FEN Blog taking on the role from the previous editors, Lauren Fusilier and Megan Von Bergen. What we learned from Lauren and Megan’s time with FEN Blog is the prevalent topics in the field of writing studies published on the Blog. These issues are current and also written in a language that might be more accessible to a wide audience. In this conversation, we want to highlight our goals and purpose for the blog in the 2022-23 academic year. 

Jada: One of the reasons I decided to apply for the editor position for FEN Blog is because the blog is under the umbrella of Composition Studies, an academic journal, but the blog provides a space for multimodal work. It invites writers of all backgrounds to write for a wider audience than just an academic one. Moreover, I wanted to be involved in the field of composition more and the prospect of using the skills I’ve developed as a lecturer to be an editor for a blog was exciting. 

Ben: I was similarly attracted to the blog because it struck me as a space for conversations that don’t readily fit within the strictures and particular affordances of “academic” writing. 

Jada: Right! I have been a lecturer for twelve years. Since the beginning of my career in teaching composition, I have been passionate about students writing in different modes whether they are blogs, sites, memes, and even creating videos on reflections, TEDx talks, and more. Multimodal writing is more “real” and relevant to students because it’s a genre they engage in quite often and more than traditional academic writing. So, multimodal writing really appeals to me personally. 

Ben: Where you say “modes,” I say “genres.” This is probably because I’m one of those compositionists who crossed over from creative writing, which means I have a certain attachment to writing as writing, with all the connotations (and baggage) that that word implies. 

Jada: I love the word genre! I got interested in rhetorical genres and genre studies in graduate school and believe in the explicit teaching of genres with my FYW students. Thinking of our blog submissions as specific genres could be helpful for potential submiters. 

Ben: But then of course we can’t forget the role of technology in shaping the blog as a genre. It’s multimodal at the same time as it’s a genre. Personally, while I recognize that technology is rapidly and irrevocably evolving our modes of communicating, I am still invested in writing as a method (or perhaps a plurality of methods) of thinking and understanding the world. This is all a roundabout way of saying that I am interested in writing that tries to push the boundaries of what “academic” or “creative” means, perhaps in a move for something more “real,” as you say.  So is a blog a mode or a genre? I suppose this is one of the questions we might try to answer, or at the very least pose to our audience.

Jada: I love the idea of pushing the boundaries of traditional academic writing. Our blog is a space where we invite submissions from a wide range of scholars and teachers of writing and rhetoric whether they are mid- to late-career or new in the field, including graduate students.

Ben: I like that you are emphasizing both “scholars and teachers” in that range. I think it’s important to acknowledge that our field includes so many teachers of writing who aren’t tenure track or even full-time grad students. And while there are some non-TT faculty who are able to sustain their research and writing in spite of unfavorable teaching loads and little institutional support, for others it’s a feat to just to keep up on the latest scholarship, nevermind finding the time to do research and write and publish. But this is me speaking as a newly full-time, non-TT faculty instructor who is also still finishing his dissertation. 

Jada: I totally get it; however, I’ve never been a lecturer while finishing a dissertation! I have mostly taught at large public universities in California. I do think that non-TT faculty have perhaps not been recognized through their own writing. But there’s a very real disadvantage, as you say– time. I remember at several points in my teaching career, I taught six FYW courses a semester on multiple campuses just to make ends meet. I had no time for reading scholarship or engaging in, much less writing to get published. Sometimes it felt like the system is built against me really doing much of that. 

Ben: I’m lucky to have only adjuncted for a couple of semesters between graduate programs.  Nonetheless, the struggle feels very real. I think we’re in agreement that we’re especially open to submissions that speak to labor conditions in our field and what these conditions mean for our scholarship as well as our teaching. These aren’t new topics, of course, but it has been much easier for TT faculty to write about these issues on behalf of non-TT and contingent faculty than it has been for these faculty to get their own voices heard. 

Jada: Very true. The voices that should be heard must be heard. 

Ben: And I hope that FEN Blog will continue to be a platform for more voices. I think one of the most important affordances of the blog as a genre (or mode?) is its immediacy. And this applies on many fronts: faster to write, faster to publish, and faster to read. This greater velocity can make it more accessible for more readers and more voices and give it a responsive quality that can be difficult to achieve when you’re looking at a couple years long process to publish in an academic journal.

Jada: I like your approach of “faster to write, faster to publish, and faster to read” because I hope that this is encouraging to lecturers and non-TT writing instructors at various types of higher education institutions. But at the same time, we still aren’t as immediate as other forms of online publishing. We’re still an academic publishing space. Our editorial standards don’t allow us to publish with the same velocity as a Tweet or social media post.

Ben: I think we do have a bit more patience than the rest of the internet…

Jada: Yes, more patience and more encouragement! I really want to encourage scholars and teachers to submit pitches and full-length multimodal blog posts. We are looking for pieces that incorporate more multimodal elements that really allow us to expand the notion of the multimodal space.  So potential submitters should feel free to submit texts with various kinds of multimodal elements– images, hyperlinks, videos, and more. 

Ben: While Megan and Lauren did a terrific job creating this space from scratch, as new editors, we’re still learning how this space differs from the academic journal space. I’d like to see what our readers and writers have to contribute to answering that question. 

Jada: Megan and Lauren have worked hard to create this space that has redefined what academic readers and writers could be. We want to thank them for the blog and we look forward to carrying on their legacy in new directions.

Ben: Our first CFP is dropping as we speak (or, more accurately, as we publish this conversation). We’d like to see pitches and full-length submissions that speak to the post-truth world we’re now living in, but we’re also open to other concerns that are of this moment and about the issues that affect the teachers, researchers, and students in our field. 

Jada: Agreed, Ben! I am very excited to see what we receive and publish this year! I hope we are casting a wide net in our call and hope many are encouraged to submit. For any submission and pitches, we ask they be submitted to fenblog.compstudies@gmail.com.

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