(This blog will be featured as a part of the Academia farewell anthology, The Masks We Wore: you can read more about its authors and release here!)
If my math is correct, having recently counted- when Academia wrapped up blogging in 2018, it ended with almost 150 blog pieces under its moniker, most traditional articles on literary theory, with a handful of joint blogs and interviews. Academia spanned two host sites, a plethora of topics, and a lot of colorful discussion.
Academia was my baby from the beginning. My brainchild, and something I am so proud to have made.
In 2016, I started working for Inkitt as a Community Manager. One of my very first assignments on staff was to create a weekly project for a resident member, Joshua Grasso, who maintained a lot of popularity on the site. It was a hectic first week and the ideas about what Academia was were tossed about between several staff members before I finally settled on the idea of a weekly discussion board that culminated into a blog, inspired by my few English classes and their format.
Academia was mine from the beginning. Most of the staff at Inkitt didn’t want to handle it or didn’t know how to (its host was known among staff with terms like “difficult” and “high maintenance”), so eventually, all management, social media, and organization was mine to maintain. All of the blogging and forum regulation fell to Joshua, but I was often shadowing the general discussion and did all of the finishing edits for Academia’s blogs. For seven months, the original blogs for Inkwell ran like clockwork, until I quit my job (a very long story all on its own) and my project partner and I ended the blog.
It was not my original intention to continue Academia after Inkitt, but something about the project stood out beyond the limitations of the “assigned task” I was given in 2016. What was Academia, if not a collection of blogs and discussion? I could probably make that happen anywhere.
In 2017, I and Joshua Grasso relaunched Academia with a discussion on video games. My community of authors reknitted, and new people joined the fray, and it was like nothing had ever changed. I realized when Academia moved how genuinely special Academia was, and how proud I was to be a part of this project.
That part of the story is, of course, the simplest way to describe Academia I can muster. Back and forth, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convey what Academia meant to me, particularly as a retrospective sometime after the main blog finished. I am a different person, and by proxy, a different kind of student, than I was when I started Academia. I wasn’t even an English major yet when I was handed Academia, nor did I have a particular circle of English cohorts like I did in my final semesters of college. I was floating around community college, unmoored and discouraged from making many friends in my mostly petroleum-centered school. When I was handed Academia first, I was about to start my third English class ever, mostly out of entertainment because I had every intention of graduating with a degree in History. That English class was, interestingly, the 2nd worst class I ever took in college.
What changed my mind? Well, in a lot of ways, Academia did.
In 2016, knowing nothing about academic discussion, knowing less about the most literary nuances of English, I found something quite eye-opening about the week-to-week work of Academia. From the formulation of topics, all the way to the week’s blog: I loved them as much as any regular participant. I had a fear of seeming lacking in earnest, since I was paid to keep Academia alive at the time, but nothing made me quite so happy at the time as watching Academia flourish. When it was revived as an independent project in 2017, I leaped at the prospect of writing for Academia instead of just organizing. Academia’s role in my life taught great lessons in teamwork and organization, but more than anything, Academia gave me a door to a love of literature. Through its original discussions and blogs, I recognized a new way to read, a new way to analyze, a new way to approach the books I wrote. There were some many (poor) attempts I made at mirroring the experiences of the blog into my English major. I realized that the knowledge passed down from Academia might take me years to refine, parse, and truly master. Just like writing fiction, my relationship with academic writing and literary analysis needed time, work, and revision before I could call its form my own. I still felt Academia’s ripples as I entered my junior and senior level English classes, saw their influence in the ways I approached my online discussions and assignments. I realized that even though I built Academia for other people, it had changed me so deeply and personally.
Often, sharing a blog with Joshua meant that we stumbled on the same- or similar, themes from blog to blog. Reading through Academia’s blog now, even if you can’t tell who wrote a piece by their style, you can usually tell by the topics and subjects they gravitated after. Mine are always about a personal experience, an anecdote or unusual story that I had on my mind. I grabbed for the personal, the humanistic, and infinitesimal in literature, even if I didn’t realize that was my angle at the time. Because for myself, Academia was about the infinitesimal: the tiny ripples left from a book, a movie, a blog, a story shared over coffee, words jotted on a discarded napkin- and how those words always, always impact someone. Particularly in this global, interconnected culture that we currently occupy, we do not exist in a vacuum: we are not an island. The words we share have an impact.
I have learned this quite thoroughly, not only in my time with Academia, but in making this anthology. There are so many people who I know, deeply affected by Academia’s influence. I think that’s quite evident in the anthology and its stories, but (perhaps unintentionally) in the theme of the anthology itself: “the masks we wore.” The original goal in the theme, way back in 2018, was to let authors read into the topic however they wanted. This freedom has given the anthology itself a colorful, diverse collection of stories that embody, in their own way, what each author considers a “mask” and how they approach their mask in fiction.
I hope this coming anthology finds you well, whether you are a first-time reader of Academia, or returning for the last time. Thank you for a magical four years, a beautiful gift of discussion and insight, and all of the great times had in between.
Caitlin E Jones