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WriteON updates for fall 2023

The Graduate College's WriteON returns quietly for Fall 2023 with Virtual Check-ins. We hope to restart Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) soon. Come join us our tenth season and get some writing and/or concerns off your plate.

Virtual Check-ins

Benn is running virtual check-ins this semester on at noon (Chicago time) on the following days: September 12, Sept. 27, October 6, Oct. 18, Oct. 24, and November 1. The aim of the virtual check-ins (over Zoom) is two-fold: replicate the first few minutes of the in-person sessions of yesteryear (divulge 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.

Open to graduate students and alumni who are experiencing the writing process. Punctuality is appreciated and expected. Questions about check-ins? Please contact Benn.

Zoom link:

If needed: Meeting ID: 949 716 829 / Passcode: writeon.


Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs)

How: Since our focus will be on sustained writing time, we can just say hello quickly at the top of the hour, put writing goals for the day in the chat (or say them aloud, if that's your preference) and move right into writing.

Where: Virtually via Zoom, at least for now. The Zoom link is below (and it will remain the same each day and week for returning participants).

When: TBD-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.

Some of our alumni (and where they are now): Natalie Jorion (psychometrician, BitSight), Juanita Del Toro (instructor, Harold Washington College), Lindsay Athamanah (assistant professor, U. Missouri-St. Louis), Sharon Weiner (lecturer at Baylor), Jacklynn Fitzgerald (assistant professor, Marquette U.), Yochai Eisenberg (assistant professor, UIC), Eda Anlamlier (assistant professor, UNLV), Kayleigh Tovar (microbiologist/immunologist), Natalia Villamizar Duarte (urban planner/designer, Newcastle University), Ryan Sporer (assistant professor, Salisbury U.), Ellen Kang (anthropologist), Mine Tafolar (instructor, Aurora & Dominican universities), Andrea Kraft (visiting lecturer, UIC)… (Share you story!)

NCFDD 14-Day Writing Challenges (free!)

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. The Women’s Leadership and Resource Center hosts “Write@WLRC” every Friday, September 15-December 1, 2023. The Institute for the Humanities has hosted 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); Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (NY: Scribner, 2000); Kirin Narayan, Alive in the Writing (Chicago: U Chicago Press, 2012); and Michelle R. Boyd’s Becoming the Writer You Already Are (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2023) as well as 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