Vision Unbound, Part Two

This is my Computers and Writing presentation in two parts. The links to both entries will be posted at the conference site. As the weekend ends and my massive grading is finished (this is finals week and grades are due Monday), these two entries will be added to and refined somewhat. However, if you read it today, this is the essence of the presentation.

Now as an associate professor and still active Computers and Composition Onlineeditor who is also editor for a regional press (Moon City Press), I find that when co-mentoring extends past graduate school into professional life, growth happens. However, modeling that growth as a co-mentor in a master’s-only department where students have a wider variety of career goals than doctoral students means that the mentoring I do as editor often must reach beyond institutional walls.

One way I do this is to actively use social media like Twitter, Facebook, and yes, even Get Glue and BlipFM to keep in touch with others. I friend graduating M.A.s on Facebook so that I can keep track of their interests and achievements. I also have a Moon City Press page on Facebook, where we can post CFPs and publicize events. Of course, we set up Facebook events too. Finally, I find that I get a far better (an faster) response to Facebook messages than email or CFPs through listservs.

When rhet/comp students at other universities follow me on Twitter (@llcadle), I follow them as well. Some interesting projects have grown out of this practice, and I’ve found that it gives me the broader base for co-mentoring that I need. I get to know them and their interests through their tweets; it is like having an endless hallway for those hallway chats that make up the glue which forms academic friendships and collaborations.

Social software fosters the egalitarian core of co-mentoring, as it allows people literally across the world to collaborate and produce the best journal (or book) possible. For example, Craig Meyer is a Missouri State M.A. who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Ohio. He continues to do production work for Moon CIty Press, and his keen editorial eye and knack for details is much appreciated. Social media makes his work for the press possible. Meyer started his association with Moon City Press as a student in James Baumlin’s Research Methods class. In it, the class researched and wrote “The Gillioz, “Theatre Beautiful: Remembering Springfield’s Theatre History.” A few years later, Meyer returned as lead editor for another Research Methods class project that turned into Confederate Girlhoods: Growing up –.” He is currently fitting in book signings in several states as he works on his doctorate.

My main focus at Moon City Press is Book Series Editor for the Moon CIty Review book series. An annual anthology of poetry, story, art, and criticism, Moon CIty Review publishes student, faculty, and professional work that is nationally distributed through University of Arkansas Press. Most literary journals exclude work from current students, but MCR has student involvement in every phase as part of its mission.It is a regional nonprofit press rather than an in-house university press. The editors and staff are from more than one university, making MCP more regional than local.

As a new project, we are currently in the process of designing a poetry chapbook series with two offerings: one that will be integrated into Missouri State poetry classes and one that will be a national competition. Unfortunately, the co-mentoring that would be seen as good and an advantage as a prelude to peer reviewed or blind peer-reviewed submission in academic publishing translates differently in literary publishing. Poetry manuscript contests are so competitive that judges must exclude current or former students. That is why, if we go ahead with this, there will be two chapbook contests rather than one for all. The student contest will have an outside judge and the national contest will be judged the same way or internally.

This raises the issue of where the line falls for co-mentoring. What is co-mentoring and what is the academic equivalent of insider trading? I believe outreach is the key to avoiding in-group syndrome. A concrete example of that outreach is my attendance at Computers and Writing and other conferences. I make sure to carefully go through the program and attend panels that I think (a) have something new to say and (b) are comprised of mostly graduate students. “Name” submissions will find their way to CCO without my help. The exciting, truly cutting edge work that is typical of graduate students does need editorial encouragement and yes, co-mentoring.

Those graduate students, in turn, eventually go on to jobs where they practice the same mentoring with their students. It’s the way it works. It’s the way it should work.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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