The role of writing in building community is an important topic. This book moves us through that process by describing the journey into the fold of a particular writing community. While it may be helpful to describe community membership as a typical journey, it is nonetheless important to interrogate this journey of belonging through examining the specific nature of one such community. Given that both the nature of collaborative writing and community practices are situated, the journey itself is also situated practice. The writing community described in this text is Inkshed, an academic collaborative that has existed over twenty-five years at the publication of this text.
What is Inkshed? It is the nickname of the Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning (CASLL), an organization that has the purpose of exploring relationships among research, theory, and practice in language acquisition and language use, particularly in the Canadian context. Inkshed has a website, LISTSERV, publication group, and annual meetings. The membership is a mixture of mainly Canadian academics and professional writers from across the provinces and territories. Regional members organize a yearly conference. For these conferences, members are provided with a guiding theme that creates a common thread for member presentations. Following and often during presentations at each one of these conferences, a special type of sharing takes place: members write responses to each of the presentations; they literally shed ink on the presentations and then place these response writings on conference tables for others to read and engage in further writing, responses to the responses. Writings in response to the speakers are then gathered together by a team of conference organizers, edited and distributed so that all members, including the presenters, can read the written responses of their community throughout the duration of the conference. As the technology has become available, some responses have been posted online. This writing-in-community response was a forerunner of the current social networks, which became an inevitable consequence of writing collectives online such as Wikis, Twitter, online letters to the editor, fan fiction, or Facebook. Inkshedders have always described this conference as a working conference and described the collaborative nature of their responses in writing as a far deeper experience than merely listening to a speaker and/or asking questions at the end of a session. The audience is purposefully engaged. The investment of self is personal.
In this text, Miriam Horne has addressed the nature of this deeper experience. She notes that it is a risk-taking venture and that the feeling of membership goes beyond paying fees to belong. Inkshedders must pay their dues in other ways toward full membership. Legitimate peripheral participation (LPP), as introduced by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, is only the beginning. Horne’s book provides insight into knowledge about membership and invites us to think about our own and other communities of membership such as school classrooms, Web 2.0, churches, and clubs. We see that peripheral participation is an important and tenuous aspect of membership and that success in this outside margin is important to the nature of how one sees oneself later, on the inside of membership. Horne’s interrogation of what it means to become an Inkshedder allows us to interrogate the meaning of membership through collaborative writing, and determine what it really means to become part of a community. The book describes a personal journey into academic writing in community and is a good read for anyone who aspires to that destination.