Stephanie Hedge is a Ph.D. Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition, with a focus on digital literacies. She is working on her dissertation titled “Investigating Student Identity Practices Across Material Spaces and Social Software—from the Classroom to Digital Environments.” She is also currently the Assistant Director of the Writing Center. When it came to our attention that Stephanie’s writing had just been featured on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, we sent out graduate student Craig Schmidt to interview Stephanie and find out more about her writing in online publications.
Tell us a bit about the writing that you’ve been publishing on the internet.
I’m a full-time writer for GradHacker which is an affiliate site of ProfHacker. The posts are also published online through the InsideHigherEd website. I’ve written posts about how to successfully navigate a conference and tips about how to deal with the feelings that you have while writing your dissertation.
What exactly are these sites and what are they designed to do?
GradHacker is in the same vein as LifeHacker. LifeHacker is a website that gives tips on living such as the right kind of sleep schedule and what foods to eat. GradHacker gives tips and tricks to being successful in graduate school. It’s written by grad students for grad students and gives insights in order to successfully navigate grad school. And ProfHacker is a website written by faculty for faculty.
Are you paid for writing pieces for these sites or is it more for the experience?
I get a $20 Amazon gift card, but it’s about the experience. I’m able to feel less isolated and more in touch with a larger community. With every new post, I add a couple more followers on my Twitter account and am able to talk with more people about my experiences and their experiences as grad students. I’m able to have conversations with other grad students through the comments about my posts or through Twitter, and it gives me a chance to be introspective about my experiences during my nearly five years as a grad student.
How did you first find out about them and how did you begin writing for the sites?
A friend of mine sent me a link to a post on GradHacker, which was relatively new at the time, entitled, “Gaming Grad School” in November of last year. After I got to the site, I started checking it out. I read all of the articles in the archives. I got the feeling that I wasn’t alone. So, I subscribed to the RSS feed and read all of the new articles when they were posted. While on the site, I came across a post about writing for the GradHacker site, and I sent them a sample post. The editors liked the post, and they published it online.
How do you decide what subjects to write about? Are you given specific assignments? Do you write about whatever comes to mind?
Whatever comes to mind, really. There is a staff of about thirteen people (including editors and full-time and part-time writers); we sign up a few weeks in advance as to which days we want to post on (as a full-time writer, I post two times per month). The post that I wrote which was posted on both ProfHacker and GradHacker as part of a crossover was about productivity tools. Mainly, I write about what’s going in my life. Like the post that I wrote about going to conferences–I wrote it because I had just recently gotten back from a conference. That post was full of a lot of things that I wish I had known before going to the conference.
Have you seen any crossovers or correlations between what you’ve written for these sites and the writing that you’ve done for your courses?
Sometimes there’s a correlation of topics. I wrote a post about finding research subjects for my dissertation. A lot of the information for that post came straight out of my research notes. The writing I do for these sites gives me downtime from my scholarly writing but keeps me in the practice and habit of writing. That way I get a break but continue to write, which in turn helps me when I’m writing anything specifically academic by giving me a chance to practice thinking things through.
Do you have any advice for students who would like to begin writing for online publications like these?
Give it a shot. The way that I found GradHacker was through Twitter. They were asking for submissions. So, I sent something in. If you find a site that is asking for submissions, send something in. Just try. There’s a website called Writing Commons which has articles that I would use for my classes. I noticed that they were looking for review editors, and I contacted them. I’m now a review editor for them. Take that first step. Contact someone. Get involved in the online communities.