Volume 18 Adapted from Bernd Krämer, via Wikimedia Commons. Olympus Playground in Munich, Oct 2015

Over the past five years, I've been continuously impressed with the intellectual curiosity, courage, and creativity demonstrated by first-year student writers whose essays are selected for the publication in Fresh Writing. Volume 18 is no exception, as this collection of 27 essays reflects some of the best first-year student writing I've seen in my time as editor. Further, the volume is a testament to the continued excellence of faculty across the University who work with these students, offering the guidance and direction needed to yield complex, thought-provoking, and sometimes surprising essays.

As with previous volumes, this collection shows students wrestling with controversies rooted in our historical moment, including questions about the causes of racial profiling, the ramifications of conglomerate media ownership, and the heartbreaking realities of the opioid crisis. This volume also includes the second DACA-related narrative of the publication's history (the first having been published in Volume 16), illustrating the ongoing impact and relevance of this global controversy to local students.

Students published in this volume continue to turn their attention to the past, as well, examining historical artifacts and institutions with impressive focus and sophistication. Essays like Bison: Livestock or Wild and Free and A Carriage of One's Own: The Contested Meaning of Women-Only Carriages in Japanese Gender Culture offer detailed, research-based analyses to show what an understanding of the past offers readers in the present.

The volume also demonstrates students' continued efforts to critically examine the popular culture landscape, from album cover to documentary to pop culture icon. Students published in this volume blend processes of media analysis and production, as well, composing across multimodal genres such as a student-produced podcast, video essay, and audio narrative to demonstrate relationships between medium and message.

Themes of disability and difference comprise a particularly salient theme in Volume 18, with essays such as Our Most Valuable Flaws, Flipping the Dyslexic Perspective, and Chronically Absurd: Recognizing the Ridiculousness of the Serious offering accounts of disability that blend research and lived experience to critique incomplete and oftentimes problematic attitudes and assumptions.

These are, of course, only a few of the many topics engaged by this year's collection of essays. While the topics and genres may differ, these essays remain united by a shared goal of building understanding, of joining important conversations through writing that questions the past, critiques the present, and imagines a better future. I look forward each year to the continued conversation Fresh Writing offers, and I thank the writers published in this volume for making the most recent segment of the ongoing conversation particularly memorable and thought-provoking.

Best,

Dr. McLaughlin
Editor