Introducing the Redefining Writing Essay Contest

Meredith Barrett
Associate Director, Writing & Related Literacies

Hello v.1 readers!

My name is Meredith Barrett. I am Associate Director for Writing & Related Literacies at the Center for Arts & Language (A&L). That’s a long title that means I run the peer tutoring program. I am also the instigator of the new Redefining Writing Essay Contest, which was inspired by writing competitions at other institutions and fine-tuned for A&L and for RISD with the help of my colleagues, Jen Liese and Maya Krinsky.

I felt so strongly about putting together this contest because it embodies so much of what we at A&L believe in. All of our work with students on their writing and with faculty on their assignments is guided by our commitment to uplifting varied languages, vernaculars, styles, voices, and rhetorics. Our work—which I love—is at the service of others and their goals—which I love—but this contest is our chance to set the assignment. It’s our chance to do more than advocate, to honor, celebrate, and share essays that break from traditional standards.

And RISD students really took up the call! We were delighted to have fifteen entries, incorporating many forms, from poetry to video, and varied topics, from the political to the personal. When the panel of judges convened in early April, we found ourselves most excited by those submissions that took the space needed to think beyond any assignment criteria. We saw students stepping outside what we learn to do in classrooms, and in doing so, they found new ways of thinking and new ways of engaging in communication. We saw the kind of writing we all want to read. Through future iterations of this contest, we hope to see more experiments with form and language, new “rules” broken, and an ever-evolving definition of essay writing.

Within this issue of v.1, you’ll find the winning essay and three honorable mentions. For each, I’ve shared what we, the judges of this contest, found remarkable. But I wonder what will stand out to you. What makes these different from the articles you read for classes? What do they add to your reading experience? Are the other texts in this issue academic writing—or could they be? I encourage you to read on with all this in mind and hope this inspires you to try new things, bring your whole self to academia, and revel in the discovery that happens through writing. 

Happy reading,