Being elsewhere, the place of writing retreats

Julian Ingle (UK)

When a space is provided away from everyday concerns, writers, researchers, students, in fact anyone with writing to do, can come together and work in focused, structured and mutually supportive ways. This is the essence of a writing retreat. In addition to helping manage workloads, the social space of a retreat can enable participants to share insights and find solutions, and often leads to the establishment of communities or collectives of writers who continue to work together and support each other after the retreat is over. Thinking Writing, a small team who work with academic colleagues to develop educational practice at Queen Mary, University of London, have been running writing retreats for staff and students for a number of years. In this presentation, I will show how our particular versions of non-residential ‘urban’ writing retreats are organised, in particular, the goal setting and very short writing tasks we use. We will look at what participants say about their writing in this context and how it helps them to develop. We will see how writing retreats help participants move their writing projects forward but also how the participants can adapt some of the tasks to their own teaching and supervision. And finally, I will briefly outline how we have helped establish regular writing retreats and communities in university departments, and offer suggestions on how retreats could be adapted to different contexts.

After working as a translator in Barcelona, Julian Ingle studied philosophy at the Universities of Middlesex and Essex. Before joining the Thinking Writing team at Queen Mary, University of London in 2009, he worked at London Metropolitan, City University and UCL where he wrote and taught courses in philosophy, history of ideas and history for adults in continuing education; academic writing and English for academic purposes at post-graduate, undergraduate and foundation level; Spanish language at undergraduate level; and worked on EFL teacher training courses at post-graduate and undergraduate level. His work in learning development involved facilitating action learning sets and developing critical and reflective thinking.
Much of Julian’s recent work in Thinking Writing has been with staff and students in medicine and engineering.