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WriteON updates for summer 2022

Because of Covid-19, WriteOn went online on April 2, 2020. Virtual check-ins permit students to discuss their writing projects at the macro level and in terms of the upcoming day...and to see other human beings who are also trying to write during a global pandemic. We took a hiatus July 13, 2021  - January 31, 2022 while we re-assessed our mission and our staffing levels.

Based on the results of our WriteOn survey and graduate student feedback, participants indicated that they want, in order of preference:  (1) Virtual accountability; (2) Return to “check-ins”; (3) In-person (tie); and (3) Hybrid (tie). We listened. Read on!

Virtual check-ins and writing accountability groups (WAGs) returned in spring 2022.

  • The aim of the virtual check-ins is two fold: replicate the first few minutes of the in-person sessions of yesteryear (name, program, writing project) to build ties between disciplines and participants and allow folks a no-stress space to chat about their writing challenges, successes, etc., regardless of time zone. Beginning Tuesday 2/1 and continuing through in June, Benn Williams hosted virtual check-ins on Mondays and Tuesdays from February 1 through mid-June. They will resume in September. Stay tuned!
  • Summer Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) resumed on Wednesday 6/29 from 11-2pm, and will be taking place each Wednesday and Thursday from 11am - 2pm through 8/18/22. There are seven more weeks to make serious progress on your writing!  An exciting note: WAGs will now be hybrid, with both in person and virtual sessions!  The specifics:
    • What: Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs). Our focus will be on sustained group writing time, so we can just say hello quickly at the top of the hour, share writing goals for the day (or put them in the chat, if you’re joining virtually), and then move right into writing. We can share our progress at the end of the hour / session.
    • When: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 6/29 - 8/18, 11am - 2pm. Feel free to join for the full three-hour session, or only for an hour! Stay as briefly or as long as you’re able.
    • How: In person or via Zoom
    • WhereWednesdays in person and virtually (those who don’t wish to meet in person can join via Zoom) and Thursdays entirely via Zoom. Wednesday’s sessions will take place in University Hall 650, which is a conference room that can accommodate about eight socially distanced participants. Feel free to bring your own snacks and beverages! **For the in-person sessions, I will need to send out a weekly Doodle to ensure we don't have more people than the space can accommodate. While I recognize that Doodle polls are not everyone's favorite thing, completing a weekly poll will help us to stay safe and make the room available to other groups if we don't have participants sign up.**Here is the link to the in-person sign up:

-Lindsay Marshall and Benn Williams, co-coordinators

Thank you for these sessions. I wouldn’t have stayed on course without them!


Lindsay Athamanah, PhD (Special Education)  |  Assistant Professor, Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership, U. Missouri-St. Louis
Woman Writing on Laptop

The Graduate College’s “Get Your WriteON!” — or simply “WriteON” — was created in the fall of 2014 and inspired by colleagues at the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. While the frequency of sessions increased, the essence remained the same: providing self-motivated graduate students with a dedicated space and time to write. (Grad alumni are also welcome!) The no-frills writing sessions in SSB2790 were long on quietude, coffee, and camaraderie — and short on chit-chat (at least within the work space). Using Doodle as a reservation system, participation was capped at twelve participants per session so that each writer could enjoy a strategically placed table (~48″ long) with access to UIC Wi-Fi and an electrical outlet. Staff and participants provided the coffee, tea, cream, and, their own mug. A small refrigerator was available to store lunches.

Virtual WAGs

In-person WAGs Doodle

In Praise of Deep Work and Walking Heading link

My first recommendation for cultivating your own attention, then, is to carve out deep-work sessions in your own life. […] [T]he two keys for me have been space and schedule. I make sure my deep-work sessions are always done in the same place, and I make sure I have scheduled them at least a day in advance. At the end of every workday, I know when my next deep-work time will happen. My second recommendation represents a turn in an entirely different direction […] but it has equally powerful potential to bring greater attention and well-being into your life, and most of us already do it every day: walking. 

James M. Lang (Author of Distracted: Why Students Can't Focus and What You Can Do About It (2020))  |  Professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College

Below are more resources related to writing.

Workshops and Workshopping

When staffing permits, workshops are offered. Past workshop topics have included “CVs and Cover Letters,” “How Do I Get Out of Here?” (Dr. Kollenbroich’s practical primer on the thesis/dissertation process), and a discussion of practical and technological best practices and tools.

When graduate student enthusiasm exists, WritersON engage in the workshopping of (article, dissertation chapter) drafts using Box to share the texts and meeting on Zoom to discuss one another’s contributions. Traditionally, with the exception of the coordinator, one offers up one’s own work for critique in order to participate, but participants can make their own rules.

GC 512

If you are a graduate student looking for assistance with the nuts and bolts of writing, consider enrolling in our course Principles and Practice of Writing for Graduate Students (GC512).


In summer 2021, we piloted a new course dedicated to the development of applications for prestigious fellowships: Fellowship Writing Practicum for Graduate Students (GC513). It is designed for students apply for Fulbright, CLS, and/or Boren.

Interested in other writing groups at UIC and elsewhere? We took our inspiration from the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) and its “WriteOut” sessions. See below. The Institute for the Humanities often hosts writing retreats as well.

Additionally, there are often free or low-cost writing opportunities through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). The Graduate College subsidizes the institutional membership. Take advantage!

Resources suggested by your colleagues include Paul J. Silvia’s How to Write a Lot, 2nd ed. (Washington D.C., APA, 2018); Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say [too many editions count] (NY: Norton); and Kirin Narayan, Alive in the Writing (Chicago: U Chicago Press, 20212); and Cathy Mazak’s free Trello templates for Academic Writing Project Management.


We have seen an uptick in the services available to graduate students.

Grant Writing Tips

Fellowship Toolbox

"Unplug and Write": Tips from the Planners of Color Interest Group (POCIG) Heading link

In January, 2021, Ivis Garcia Zambrana (University of Utah) and Natalia Villamizar Duarte (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) organized a New Year POCIG Retreat entitled “Unplug and Write.” These alumni of UIC’s urban planning and public policy doctoral program have kindly shared their goal, objectives, and highlights with us to encourage WritersON to form their own writing retreats! (Natalia is a long-time WriteON participant, both as student and as an alumna; text edited for concision and clarity.)

Goal: To write an week setting your own goals and to join 3 check-in and writing sessions (Monday, Wed., Mon.).

Objectives: (1) to explore tools that can help the writing process; (2) to collaborative develop a writing plan

Session 1 included:

  1. Sharing of goal and objectives
  2. Discussing strategies to help you write:
    1. Think of yourself as a writer, practicing daily for 30 minutes
    2. Consistent time and place to write – routine!
    3. Put writing in your calendar
    4. Sustaining rituals: coffee, meditation, music, timer
    5. Daily reward (food, walk)
    6. Establish accountability
    7. Assess, reassess your routine, rituals, process
    8. Other strategies suggested by participants:
  3. Other strategies suggested by participants:
    1. Meet with your advisor weekly; set an agenda
    2. Stuck? Trying recording your thoughts/ideas (using phone)
    3. Carry a notebook to jot down ideas
    4. Stuck? Free write
    5. Use intertextual or marginal comments to yourself:  “I don’t think this structure works…but I need to include XYZ”
    6. Use track changes with ‘view all markup’
    7. Set realistic goals; expect a poor first draft
    8. Classical playlist? White noise on YouTube?
    9. Set deadlines
  4. Resources:
    1. Countdown timers, alarms, and time-tracking apps like Toggl or on YouTube
    2. Self journal
    3. Cube office
    4. Louise Dunlap, “Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change
      Writing,” (2007). Available in JSTOR
    5. Watch “Ferocious Editing” and/or “The Craft of Writing Effectively”

WriteON Contacts Heading link