Fourth Genre, an MSU Journal

Fourth Genre Issue 14.2 coverFourth Genre is one of only a few strictly nonfiction journals, sharing the genre with literary journals such as Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, and The journal, operating within the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) department here at MSU, publishes a variety of nonfiction authors with work ranging from essays in all forms to memoir to writer as reader, all written in a variety of styles and voices. Writers published in Fourth Genre include Ander Monson, Brenda Miller, Michele Morano, Ned Stucky-French, and Ryan Van Meter, to name a few.

The great thing about Fourth Genre being housed within the WRAC department is that it affords the opportunity for students to be exposed to and involved with a national literary journal with award winning writers and editors. Students interested in the publishing world get first-hand experience while working with people that have years of experience in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Kathleen Livingston, an MSU graduate student, about her experiences working for Fourth Genre to get an idea of what it is that students can take from this nonfiction press. (more…)

WRAC Students and Faculty Attend and Present at AWP

This year’s AWP Annual Conference–the major gathering for creative writers–took place in Chicago, IL, from February 29 – March 3.  This year was the largest ever, with 10,000 people in attendance. MSU’s CAL & R&W program was represented by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. A typical conference “features over 450 readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums” and is one of the largest literary conferences in North America.

Professional Writing programs are growing so quickly that there are numerous learning opportunities for both students and professors. Dr. Laura Julier, Dr. Jon Ritz along with other faculty Stephanie Amada, and Kathryn Houghton, and undergraduate Catherine McCaffrey presented a panel at AWP called “The BA in Professional Writing: The Other Undergraduate Writing Degree.”

The panel sought to specifically address creative writers and teachers in creative writing MFA programs who are thinking about what kinds of professions their graduates might enter. They talked about professional writing programs as not all that different from creative writing programs, and teaching in professional writing programs as an easy transition for teachers from creative writing courses.

The editorial interns for Fourth Genre took part in the conference by staffing the table at the Bookfair to promote the journal, and to network with other writers, literary presses, and journals. Graduate students Ana Holguin and Katie Livingston, and undergraduates Ziev Beresh, Lauren Ebelt, Kim Tweedale, Christine Scales, Katie Conley, Cat McCaffrey, and Chelsea Beck all pitched in.

New Art for the WRAC Library

Dr. Laura Julier and Dr. Nancy DeJoy discuss how to arrange the artwork. Photo by Kristel Klank

Faculty and students working, studying, or just hanging out in the WRAC library located in Bessey Hall are fortunate enough to enjoy a space that’s now home to the work of a local artist.

When first asked by Professor Nancy DeJoy if she’d be interested in creating something for the space, MSU alumna and Lansing-based artist Kate Cosgrove didn’t hesitate. “As a working artist and graduated Spartan, of course I was interested.  I’m really excited to have some of my work hanging in the school that taught me to be an artist,” Cosgrove said.

Last week, the department installed four original pieces created by Cosgrove, who describes herself as someone who will continue creating art — and messes — until the day she dies. Cosgrove’s pieces entitled The Means, The Focus, The Collaboration, and The Awareness were all inspired by the mission of the department, and by the words, ideas, and culture that help define WRAC.

Photo by Kate Cosgrove

“The results were well worth the wait,” said Kathleen Geissler, chair of WRAC. “The department has been looking to enhance the space for some time. It’s the last step in the library’s renovation, and it’s fantastic that a local artist and alumna was able to create it.”

Cosgrove was named a 2011 Individual Artist Grant Recipient by Arts Council of Greater Lansing, and has exhibited in galleries and online. She has collectors across the United States, Canada, Australia, Colombia, France, England, and Switzerland.

For more information regarding her work, visit or follow her on Twitter.

Fourth Genre Comes to WRAC

Professor Laura Julier, associate chair of WRAC and director of the Professional Writing Program, was recently selected as the new editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. She is excited with the new position because “studying, writing, and teaching nonfiction has been the core of my professional work for a long time,” she says, “so being chosen to edit this journal is a huge and wonderful thing.”

Fourth Genre is a literary journal dedicated to publishing notable and innovative work within the genre of nonfiction. (The title refers to the fact that the traditional canon for teaching literature focused primarily on the genres of fiction, poetry, and drama.)

Fourth Genre editorial staff
photo by Kristel Klank

Under the previous editor, the journal has progressively broadened from its original focus on personal essays and memoir to welcoming alternative forms of nonfiction, including photo essays, graphic essays, and works that blur the lines between genres. Julier says she is committed to maintaining the long tradition of excellence. Works by a number of the journal’s editors and writers have won awards, the most recent example being the inclusion of eight essays published in Fourth Genre in the Notables list for Best American Essays 2011.

Having Fourth Genre in WRAC and having Julier as the editor provides huge opportunities for students in both the Professional Writing and Rhetoric and Writing programs. Julier says, “I’m particularly happy to be able to bring the resources and opportunities that the journal affords to the [Professional Writing] program. The R&W PHD program has a concentration in nonfiction writing, so this also increases opportunities for graduate students.”  She also talks about the ways in which the journal complements the PW curriculum: students in the editing and publishing track can gain invaluable experience as part of the editorial staff on a nationally recognized journal through internships.

Six students are currently doing just that: Lauren Ebelt and Kimberly Tweedale (both Professional Writing seniors), Ziev Beresh (senior English major), Christine Scales, (Interdisciplinary Humanities major), Natalie Graham, who’s writing her dissertation in American studies, and Katie Livingston, who’s in the R&W PHD program. Interns read and screen submissions, log and organize manuscripts, and help oversee the production of the journal. Ebelt comments that she is gaining experience in evaluating manuscripts to determine what makes a really good piece of nonfiction writing, a skill that will be valuable to any publishing house.

Working for Fourth Genre, with support from the College of Arts and Letters and the MSU Press, will enable all the interns to travel to Chicago in February to the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. “The ability to provide talented students with this kind of experience, this visibility and a connection to this kind of notable, national publication, in a way that will give them a significant advantage as they seek professional positions in literary editing and publishing,” said Julier, “is absolutely the most satisfying part of being named editor.”

PW Field Trip to Founders

Thomas Gregovich also contributed to this story.

One of the strengths of the Professional Writing Program is its alumni. So many have gone on to do such interesting work. “While at Beer Rhetorics one night, Laura Julier was discussing the fact that PW students never get to see the alumni. I decided to take initiative and organize a field trip to go see alumna Sarah Aldrich,” said PW senior and Beer Rhetorics evangelist Ali White. Sarah Aldrich, currently the marketing coordinator at Founder’s Brewing Company, graduated from PW in May 2010.

It took Ali forever to find a date agreeable to all, but they finally settled on September 23rd, sign-up began, and as the date drew nearer, White approached Professor Danielle DeVoss about joining the field trip. She hopped right on board and offered to sponsor vans to take the students and faculty to Grand Rapids.

Founder’s Brewing Company is an award-winning craft brewery that began in the dreams of Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers. To accompish this dream, they quit their jobs and took out huge loans; a huge risk. After getting off to a shaky start, Engbers and Stevens decided to change up their strategy. Instead of brewing unremarkable beers that catered to all crowds, said Engbers, they decided to craft “complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor,” says the Founders website. “[We] are brewing beer for a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits.”

After arriving at downtown Grand Rapids, students and faculty met their tour leader and Founders creator, Dave Engvers. Along the tour, the group learned of the founding of the company, the brewing process, and the expansion of the brewery.

After the tour, they admired Sarah’s office, the really cool meeting room, and headed off to dinner in the taproom, courtesy of DeVoss, while enjoying delicious samples of beer. After dinner, some of the PWers headed into downtown Grand Rapids to check out ArtPrize, an annual art festival that hosts local artists.

“It was wonderful to tour the brewery and to see all of the art spread around the city. I can see why they call Grand Rapids the ‘shining star of Michigan’,” said resident mentor and TechSmith social media intern Ali White.

“As a senior, I was looking for a way to give back to the major beyond the supporting the established student groups,” said White. While at Beer Rhetorics one night, White decided to take on (another) title as PW Field Trip Coordinator and began organizing the first trip. This was about more than a field trip, though. “PW is a great program, but it only gives you the skills. We cannot expand our roles and knowledge without the help of others. We must rely on one another for networking and connections. We have the opportunity to be a powerful force in the information industry,” said White.

Although she has started work on the second PW field trip, Ali is looking for somebody to take over the position of PW Field Trip Coordinator after she graduates in December. If interested, contact Ali or Laura Julier for more details.

Seeking Communications Management Interns

WRAC has been very fortunate to have two outstanding interns for the past several months who have been steadily growing and cultivating our online community.  Alexandra (Ali) White and Laurel Sutherland are the department’s first Communications Management Interns and they have done outstanding work getting WRAC’s presence on the web and in social networks established and engaged.  Unfortunately for us, both Ali and Laurel will be moving on after this semester, so the search is on for two people to fill their very big shoes.

They still have some time left this semester, so Ali and Laurel took a moment to talk about the internship, what it entails and what they’re taking away from it:

Complete details about the position are available below.  If you’re interested in being one of the WRAC Communications Management Interns for spring or summer 2011, or just want more information, contact Mike McLeod or Laura Julier.

Communications Management Intern

Hours: Approximately 10 hrs/week
Start Date: January 3, 2011
End Date: May 13, 2011 with a possibility of extending to other semesters
Supervisor: Michael McLeod


The Communications Management Intern of the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures department is responsible for implementing and maintaining both inter- and extra-departmental communication. This includes, but isn’t limited to, developing promotional materials (web content, press releases, etc) and sustaining an active departmental presence inside social networks. This position requires a person who is outgoing and sociable and actively engaged with faculty, staff, students, and the public. Hours dependent on academic program’s internship requirements, if any, but are ideally 10 hours per week.
**Please note this is an unpaid internship.


  1. Working with a content management system;
  2. Actively listening to “channels” of conversation (face-to-face, email, Facebook, Twitter, listserv, etc.) for significant and interesting conversations or observations amongst program members
  3. Attendance at and documentation of program events
  4. Researching stories by communicating with primary sources
  5. Writing in multiple genres (listserv messages, blog posts, press releases, social media updates, etc.) and cross-promoting that writing in other mediums
  6. Maintaining regular office hours

Required Qualifications

  • Outgoing and social personality
  • Attendance of and participation in Writers’ Bloc events
  • Presence in and working knowledge of social networks (esp. Facebook and Twitter)
  • Ability to edit and manipulate images (Photoshop, Gimp, Picnik, etc.)
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office
  • Reference from at least one Professional Writing instructor

Desired Qualifications

  • Experience writing in xHTML and CSS
  • PW junior or senior, or graduate student
  • Ability to write in and maintain WordPress
  • Advanced Acrobat PDF creation skills

Application Process

Submit resume (with references), cover letter, and sample press release (or similar professional writing sample) to Michael McLeod by December 15, 2010 (only if applying for Spring 2011; an announcement of summer deadlines will be announced as that semester gets closer).

WRAC Goes to the NonfictioNow 2010 Conference

The biennial NonfictionNow Conference, also known as The Bedell Nonfiction Conference, was held at the University of Iowa last week. Representing WRAC was Dr. Laura Julier and Rhetoric & Writing PhD student Daisy Levy. The conference featured panels and readings which highlight the many different forms of nonfiction, from video essays, documentaries, and graphic essays to memoirs, lyric essays, and literary journalism. Dr. Julier presented two panels: on Thursday afternoon, “Read This: The Writer as Reader,” with MSU English Professor Marcia Aldrich as well as E.J. Levy, Robert Root, and Ned Stuckey-French. On Friday afternoon, “Further On and Deeper Still: The Land as Character in Narrative Nonfiction” with Will Jennings, Julene Blair, and Linda Tate. This conference is sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

New Videos Describe Professional Writing Courses

Professional Writing faculty and students talk about some of the courses in the PW curriculum in these videos–produced over the summer of 2010 by PW alum Ben Froese with interviews conducted in April by PW alum Sarah Aldrich–that are now linked to the program’s website. The videos are an effort to get richer, more personal narratives and descriptions of courses to majors and other students interested in the major. Students in Professor Bump Halbritter’s WRA 417 are redesigning and producing five more videos this semester.

WRA 202 Introduction to Professional Writing, with Dr. Jeff Grabill and PW alums Ainsley Elder and Jennifer Wilkinson:

WRA 260 Rhetoric & Persuation, with Dr. Stuart Blythe:

WRA 308 Invention in Writing, with Dr. Leonora Smith: