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The Hoo-Hahs

In 2011, I attended my first CWPA Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had recently accepted an interim director of composition position against the advice of most of my mentors. One of them encouraged me to insist that my institution send me to the CWPA orientation for new writing program administrators as part of my negotiations. She informed me that I would meet my people there—that I would form relationships with colleagues that would last me a lifetime.

The orientation was led by Shirley Rose and Bud Weiser and was designed to provide new WPAs with a crash course on how to lead ethical and effective writing programs. I met new and experienced colleagues from across the nation, and this included Paula and Casie. The three of us were drawn to each other, perhaps in part because we were each contingent and vulnerable in ways specific to our positions and institutions.

Paula and Casie both taught at institutions in the same state, and that spring, Paula and I were randomly assigned to the same panel at CCCC. Paula and I agreed that if we both attended CWPA the following year, we would share a room, and this began our history of conferencing together. Twice a year, at Cs and at WPA, the three of us would meet in person; and in the interim periods, we created a virtual support system. These two women understood my work, both the highs and the lows, in ways my institutional colleagues could not. But they also understood me. We developed a deep and abiding friendship that has helped prop me up for the past ten years.

We have all sorts of stories, and most of them involve outdoor activities and discussions of first-year writing. At one point, we even planned our retirement: to open a shop together, Boards, Books, and Beer. Our most memorable story, however, took place at CWPA in Normal, Illinois. We walked from the conference site to a local bakery that was supposed to be famous for cupcakes. It turned out that they were famous for one cupcake in particular—the hoo hah.

The three of us (and a couple of colleagues who joined us) found this chocolate cupcake that looked like a Hostess Ding Dong hilarious because what a great way to smash the patriarchy—to rename the classic ding dong a hoo hah. This was clearly the closest thing to a feminist cupcake we would ever find, and it was the perfect mantra for us (as an aside, when writing this post, I did some basic research on the Hostess Ding Dong, and in case you didn’t know, the name of the animated character that represented this cupcake was King Ding Dong).

We jokingly began referring to ourselves as The Hoo-Hahs. My daughters cringe every time I mention this story (and every time I use the phrase in a social media post), but at this point, most of the people I am close to know exactly who I mean when I mention my Hoo-Hahs.

This year, after not seeing each other for almost two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are having a ten-year reunion, ten years of mentoring one another personally and professionally. And by the time we meet up at the Saxapahaw River, two of the three of us will no longer be leading writing programs. This is a strange thing to put in writing even now. I’ve devoted my career to writing program administration. It is part of how I see myself as a scholar, as a teacher, and as an individual. Over the past year, however, Paula and Casie have reminded me that this is what I do and that while I am good at what I do, it is not who I am.

I am, however, a Hoo-Hah, and for that I am forever grateful.


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