Typically on a Monday, we bring you a Big Think entry; a piece by one of us that highlights our own relationship with the theme for the month. With so much of our energy focused on the party tomorrow, our Big Think series is taking the week off and will return next Monday. We’ll also feature a more in-depth reflection later this month, but in anticipation of our party tomorrow, we’re taking a moment to gather ourselves and share a little bit of what’s in each of our heads right now. You’ll hear more from us later on, but as we celebrate tomorrow, here are some things you might hear us mention. We hope you’ll be there with us–this community wouldn’t exist without you, and we want you to show up, to share and encourage and to help us honor the work every participant has done.
Andrew tells us, “I am in awe of how many intersectional conversations have happened after one year of creating The Ivory Tower Boiler Room. What started as an idea to begin hosting an academic writing podcast has now expanded to an intersectional Humanities creative collective. Who would have known that asking, on Facebook, “who would like to co-host a graduate student concern podcast” would now lead to creative writers, academics, performers, and literary enthusiasts to come together. I can’t wait to see where we are in another year.”
Andrew’s excitement is infectious–we’re all feeling joy at what we’ve created while remaining aware of the responsibility we have to shaping the future of our community. Community is also the theme in Erika’s head at the moment: “I am grateful for the existence of a space like this…one where collaboration and growth are held up as standards, and where there is great emphasis placed on the value of traditionally undervalued or silenced voices. I was the last of the four to arrive in the Boiler Room, and have struggled with my fears and feelings of inadequacy, partly because everyone else has credentials I lack. I’m trying to slay those demons, and alsoto maintain a focus on growing my skills and looking ahead. The opportunity to blend my social work skills with creative passions is a privilege that I just can’t underestimate, and I hope to draw in more people who are also invested in collaborative growth, mutual support, safer spaces and in amplifying voices. I appreciate my teammates for saying “you’ve got this” as often as they do, but the reality is: “we’ve got this.”
Adam agrees: “I am thankful to The Ivory Tower Boiler Room for helping me to rediscover my love of writing and editing personal essays. What I love about what we do is that we are a website dedicated almost exclusively to poetry and personal essays. In theory that means that anyone could write for us on any topic that is of personal importance to them. And so they are! I have been in writing-meetings with prospective essayists, and I am so excited to show you all the results in the coming weeks. These are people who called me up out of the blue and said: I want to write for ITBR but I don’t know what to write. My answer was, and I hope always will be: let’s find a time to talk and we can figure it out! But maybe this is the marvel unto itself: that I’m excited. When I think back to the early months of the pandemic, I almost have to laugh. My life felt grey and tedious. Writer’s block was a permanent fixture inside my head. I had not so much as met Mary, Erika, Tiffany, Cameron, or any of the other wonderful collaborators. I could fill a page and a half with my gratitude to all of these people, and Andrew perhaps most of all, but I’ll just say: looking back at how far we’ve come makes me want to smile and say ‘thank you’ to everyone: reader, listener, and collaborator alike.”
And Mary perfectly summarizes the general mood: “This past year has been difficult for a lot of people and I feel so lucky that Ivory Tower Boiler Room and my teammates have been the silver lining to all of it. I used to think that writing was a career meant to be done in solitude (which I was ok with) but because of the writing group, my view of writing and how writing is done has completely changed. I’m so excited to see how the Ivory Tower Boiler Room grows in the next year.”
We have so much to be grateful for right now, as we approach our one year celebration. . Andrew and Adam started out trying to build a community supporting other graduate students and early-career academics; they may have been in a familiar ship but they were exploring something unlike anyone alive had faced before. And now, here we sit, with their original mission in our hearts, having watched this project take shape and grow so far beyond and outside the original vision. We are both pleased at what we’ve achieved and deeply aware of the responsibilities we have growing forward. There’s more to say about our reflection on the past year and hopes for the future later this month…right now, we hope you’ll join us on Tuesday for our celebrations so that you can ask us in person more about what the Ivory Tower Boiler Room has meant to us. Until then, let’s put a bookmark in this and we’ll see you all tomorrow!