In the introduction to Fforum: Essays on Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing (Boynton-Cook, 1983), Patricia L. Stock provides some background to the journal fforum. She had been fforum's editor and had selected the essays in her Boynton-Cook book from it. In June, 1979, at the end of a workshop for school and college teachers sponsored by the English Composition Board of the University of Michigan, "one of the workshop leaders, Bernie Van't Hul, suggested that we continue our mutual discussion and instruction in a newsletter." His suggestion bore rapid fruit under Stock's guidance and energy, and the first issue of fforum: A Newsletter of the English Composition Board, University of Michigan appeared in fall of 1979. The journal's name refers to the classical Greek marketplace where open public discussion took place as well as business transactions. The distinctive spelling borrows from the medieval scribal practice of indicating a capital letter by doubling the letter.
fforum lasted for little more than four years and only 10 issues. The issues, however, were not of the size we think of when we imagine a newsletter. Some were over 50 pages long, and last two over 100. The final issue, too large to staple, was glued and makes a veritable book. The contributions came from the most prominent compositionists of the decade. The first two articles of the first issue were written by Ken Macrorie and Peter Elbow. The last issue had pieces by Jay Robinson, William E. Coles, Toby Fulwiler, Janice Lauer, Cy Knoblauch, Donald Murray, John Warnock, and Stock herself. As she said in her introduction to the Boynton-Cook selection, the journal was "nurtured by contributions from experts who have written informatively and concisely, as well as with clarity and grace. In just three years, their essays have attracted a readership of more than two thousand teachers from every state of the nation."
The Boynton-Cook selection is just that, a selection. Many substantial fforum pieces can be found only in the newsletter. Others were substantially changed from the newslettter originals. The newsletter also bears its distinctive format, which includes editorials, letters to the editor, bibliographies, teacher resources, advance synopses of conference workshops and presentations, and some of the most pointed and entertaining cartoons (by Van't Hul) that have ever graced a composition journal. Although to the end the journal served some special purposes of the English Composition Board at the University of Michigan, still these four volumes provide an unmatched view of the USA composition scene in the early 1980s—charged with theories of social and personal language construction and development, informed by psychology and sociology, curious about the writing process, enthused with research into writing, centered on the individual student, and committed to writing across the curriculum and a school-university articulation.
Thanks to Donald Ross and Patti Stock for generously lending the original issues for scanning.
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