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Co-Editing the Newsletter During the Pandemic and Beyond

In-progress newsletter article with cat peeking from behind laptop.

When I first took on my current role as co-editor of the PWR Newsletter in Fall 2020 alongside Emily Polk, I have to admit I felt a little daunted. Not only did we have to fill the enormous shoes of our predecessors, Shannon Hervey and Tessa Brown, it was clear that the Newsletter was going to play a special role during our distanced pandemic year. One of the things that attracted me to work on the Newsletter when I arrived at PWR was how the publication serves both as a key channel of information regarding happenings in our community and an important archive: a record of how our program has grown and changed. During the pandemic, without the serendipity of in-person encounters around Sweet and Wallenberg Halls and the Hume Center, these functions became all the more important and meaningful. 

Fortunately we had a ton of help. Emily’s sage guidance as a veteran of PWR as well as NACC (and as a general superstar leader) made our transition into committee leadership a smooth one. During AY 2020-21, the ranks of the Newsletter and Communication Committee (NACC) included Christine Alfano, Tessa Brown, Nissa Cannon, Shannon Hervey, Donna Hunter, Sangeeta Mediratta, John Peterson, Sarah Peterson Pittock, Ruth Starkman, and Cassie Wright, as well as Emily and me. Gabrielle Moyer and Matthew Redmond have served more recently, in AY 2021-22. This vibrant group brainstormed so much content each quarter that we keep a list of story ideas for future issues (now that we are truly back in person, maybe someday soon we’ll publish a showcase of PWR "fashion trends" we've been talking about for a few years).

The Newsletter has a lot of moving pieces, and it’s hard to capture the totality of what goes on behind the scenes. From our early-quarter planning meetings, to researching and drafting content, to attending and covering Program events, gathering and editing finished copy, finding just the right cover photo for each article, not to mention posting on Drupal and coordinating our release with Mailchimp-wizard Shannon, service on NACC can sometimes be a whirlwind. But it’s perennially inspiring to see everything come together as a finished product. Needless to say, if it weren’t for all of the gifted writers, photographers, and editors among our colleagues, none of it would be possible.

In recent years, you may have also noticed that we have worked to better define our content categories, as well as to innovate some new ones. In addition to our traditional features, such as “Coordinator’s Corner,” “Rhetoric from the Field,” “Teacher/Writer/Scholar,” and “Beyond the Farm,” we’ve redefined quarterly contributions from PWR leadership as a regular “From the Bridge” column. We have also begun to introduce a new category called “PWR Voices,” featuring reflective and creative content from colleagues (check out Marvin Diogenes’ wonderful piece in this issue “Episodes and Arcs: Narrative Experience in Television and the Writing Class"). In NACC more broadly, we also maintain regular posts on social media, coordinated by Ruth in AY 2020-21 and by Nissa (Twitter - PWR@Stanford) and myself (Facebook - PWRStanford & Instagram - pwrstanford) in AY 2021-22. 

All of this is by way of saying an enormous thank you to everyone who has made the Newsletter happen during the last few years, with a special thanks to Emily Polk, Christine Alfano, and Shannon Hervey for all of the behind the scenes work you do at the end of the quarter. NACC is experiencing another transition this year, as Emily steps down as co-chair and Nissa Cannon takes over the position. While Emily, too, will leave enormous leadership shoes behind, and I will miss our partnership, I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Nissa into this role, whose ideas and thoughtfulness will bring so much to NACC’s work. I am so looking forward to co-steering the Newsletter alongside Nissa during what will hopefully be a more normal (or at least closer to normal) academic year.

I’d also like to thank you, our colleagues and readers, for caring about our content and frequently contributing to it. Thank you for taking the time to sit for interviews with us, for responding to our many queries, and by always keeping us in the know regarding what’s happening in your classrooms, not to mention your exciting events and many accomplishments. I hope you consider the PWR Newsletter to be not only a reflection and record of this community, but—as it has become especially clear to me and others during the pandemic—one of its key instruments of community building. In the coming year, I hope you’ll even consider submitting a reflective essay, story, or even a poem or short fictional work for our new “PWR Voices” category. We plan to issue a call for submissions each quarter. Above all, I hope you know that we’re always listening and we’d love to hear from you.

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