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Posted August 15th, 2014 by webadmin
In this edition of Showcase, James Crocker introduces The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers and the process that led to its creation.
In mid-2011, I was leafing through a copy of the New Yorker when I came across an interesting article about the Bellevue Literary Review (BLR). Started by Dr. Martin Blaser at the NYU School of Medicine, the BLR began as a journal of creative writing for those in the medical profession with the aim of “examining human existence through the prism of health and healing, illness and disease.” Blaser soon discovered that this theme is not only of interest to those working in the field. It seems we all have a story about health, illness and healing, and because of this the journal has become immensely popular.
I read some stories on the BLR website and was delighted and moved by them. It occurred to me that I also thoroughly enjoy hearing and reading stories about our own profession, teaching languages, from colleagues and friends. Many of us have attempted to learn a language – some of us even teach them. Why not start a journal of creative writing on the theme of teaching and learning languages and being a language teacher in a foreign country?
Soon after, I pitched the idea in a presentation at a Pecha Kucha event held by our local JALT. I wanted to know what others thought of the idea and whether they wanted to get involved. The response was very positive and a lot of interested people came forward. Some, to my immense gratitude, volunteered to help.
Many of the supporters were writing and literature enthusiasts, so there was a common appreciation of how creative writing can allow us to examine the deepest and most profound aspects of our craft or profession; how it can reach us in a way that academic writing doesn’t and leave a more lasting impression.
The original idea was to form a JALT SIG and publish a literary journal utilizing the support and publicity reach of this organisation. However, in the end we decided to set the journal up independently online and call it The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers.
The first issue, in the Fall of 2013, was a stunning success. The high quality of submissions showed the amazing depth of writing talent there is in the language teaching profession. The stories were inspirational, thought-provoking and very entertaining. Some were written by published and prize-winning authors who also happened to be language teachers.
There were so many outstanding pieces; here is a small taste. Suzanne Kamata’s well-crafted Toilet Slippers and other Disasters gave a returnee high school student’s view of the arrival of a new foreign language teacher. Kelly Quinn recreated a hilarious interview with some worried parents and their clueless daughter at a women’s university in Counselling Mind. Tracy Slater’s deeply touching Native Language described her and her Japanese husband’s language and cultural struggles in each other’s countries, and Richard Harrold recounted a perspective-changing visit to a poor student’s house in China in Just Like in the West.
As word of The Font has spread, the range of countries from which submissions have been received has also grown. The Spring 2014 issue has works from language teachers in Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Cyprus, the United States, Korea and, of course, Japan. Each gives us something to reflect on about teaching and learning languages or being a foreign teacher abroad.
As well as sections for fiction, creative non-fiction, essays and interviews, The Font includes a poetry section, a page called Chalk Stubs where readers contribute their short, amusing language teaching and learning anecdotes, a page with information about events and groups for ex-pat writers to join, and even a page for cartoons.
Of course, a publication like The Font is more than just an entertaining read. As Brown, Cook and Adamson (2013) pointed out in the TLT:
“…throughout academic publishing there is a growing respect for alternative voices and alternative means of expression including…prose… This is giving more and more freedom to scholars to publish their work in their own voice… Our field, and in fact all of academia, is in a state of flux as cracks develop in the old guard system and new, possibly more vibrant, ways of sharing knowledge evolve.”
Those interested in learning more about Arts-Based Research should keep an eye out for upcoming presentations by Gareth Jones, who is also a The Font editor.
The Font has qualified for an International Standards Serial Number (ISSN) 2203 4412, and more information about its submissions procedure, not to mention some excellent reading, can be found at <thefontjournal.com>.
Brown, H., Cook, M., & Adamson, J., (2013). In response to Robert O’Mochain: A follow up to “Unscrupulous journal solicitations”. The Language Teacher, 37(6), 49-50.
James Crocker started his career in education nearly 30 years ago as a primary teacher and then taught English in China, Brunei, the US, the Czech Republic, Australia, Korea and now Japan, where he works at Kobe Women’s University.