As one of the organizers for this anniversary conference, readers will assume that I'm going to be biased in my assessment and even analysis of the conference. If I were to say it was "the best conference yet" and started making invidious comparisons, I'd have all sorts of folks saying, "no, no, it was our conference in Fredericton," OR, "good grief, it has to be ours in Mt. Gabriel." But even though I'm biased, I'd never make that claim since it does a disservice to our underlying ethos: our desire to come together each year and work as a community to reflect on the work done in the field of reading and writing at post-secondary institutions in Canada. All our conferences have been the best.
At this particular conference, we took the time to reminisce and reflect on where we've been and where we are right now. This allowed the old farts -- like me -- to feel very proud about the organization, and to note that while we've remained a relatively small group over the years, we continue to support each other and to express our commitment to good pedagogy and to relevant theories. I hope that the new Inkshedders attending this year caught some of this "context" and felt that they could be part of a group of like-minded colleagues who enjoy getting together once a year.
Much play was made of the term "context" from the theme of the conference in both the scheduled talks and in the Talent Show. We began on Friday night when Heather Graves and Roger Graves gave us some global perspectives on teaching writing and compared and contrasted these to our Canadian situation. They gave us some selected university facts and statistics about teaching in Canada. From this macro context, we moved to a more micro view of our organization and its members: on Saturday morning Nan Johnson and Sharron Wall revealed their idea to create a participatory wall of post-it notes. Their intention was to get us all to "Tell our story: [to reflect on] 20 years of teaching writing, 20 years of Inkshed." Armed with multicolored post-it notes, we marked down remembrances from the 19 previous conferences, important theorists and important events in our history. I can't imagine that this has happened at any other conference: a wall becomes the context. If you weren't there, go to
to see what you missed. After the Sunday morning review session, Nan and Sharron carefully took down "the post-it notes" wall, and have promised to save it for posterity in some digitized manner.
While some things change, much stays the same, and that includes the centrality of inkshedding after sessions, editors typing out salient inksheds and circulating them the next day. And another constant feature of our conferences, the Talent Show, was held at Nanci White's home in Creemore, Ontario. Here we enjoyed wine from the Woodsworth College cellars, and champagne donated by York University. We had visits from a slew of Canadians: a particularly erudite Radio Two announcer, and members of "The Red-Green Show" and "This Hour has 22 Minutes" (sort of). We also took time to celebrate ourselves: If you go to
you'll see a picture of those who have been around from the beginning of Inkshed being acknowledged and toasted.
And now we look forward to next year's conference. If I had some words of wisdom for next year's organizers it would be: "Some things work (at our conference, the idea of the walls for our post-it notes); some things don't (M-L's idea for inkshedders to read and annotate the same articles).' But that's what makes our conferences worthwhile and fun. You just never know what is going to happen.
All the best to the crew putting together Inkshed 21.