Challenging the Norm

Everyone loves a challenge. Here at Fresh Ink, we love a challenge, too: for us, the big challenge arrives alongside the student submissions. We know we need to read through the student essays, find some gems, and consider how each of the essays might work as a teaching tool in a writing classroom. But there’s more—as we read, we can’t help but consider whether some (or sometimes, all) of the essays will fit into an intriguing category. The category itself will provide the issue with a vision, a whole.

We never choose a category and search for essays to squish inside it; instead, we find that a category (call it a theme, or inquiry, if you will) emerges, like a mist, from the essays themselves.

This year, we found that many essayists challenged norms. Or perhaps, the norms—having announced themselves—asked the writers to push, pull, probe, examine. In reading this year’s collection, you will find that norms are often at the center of a debate, that stepping outside a norm is often a context, that diction and syntax challenge norms of their own, and thus provide interest by subverting some expectations.

In challenging norms, we see that these student writers are naming and often breaking boundaries. We hope that you will enjoy this issue—but we are thinking bigger, and thus we also hope that in reading, responding and writing, you might leave some norms behind.