Bringing the Warner Writing Camp model to FBS to build community
Last week, Puji and I, with logistical help from a committee of her colleagues and with generous financial support from AMINEF/Fulbright host engagement project funds, introduced UNNES Faculty of Languages and Arts (FBS) to the Warner Writing Camp model. Back at the University of Rochester, I have worked with MJ Curry and other colleagues to facilitate and participate in bi-annual Writing Camps for Warner faculty, staff, and students for the last several years. We draw on a lot of her research and expertise in the field of academic publishing and on what I have learned from years of participating in the Living the Writerly Life Study Group at the Literacy Research Association annual meetings, and we have written about our writing camps to offer guidance to other academic writing communities.
From the earliest planning stages of my Fulbright experience, Puji knew that she wanted to recreate Writing Camp here for her colleagues. When asked how she was able to complete her Ph.D. in less than four years, Puji has been telling people that “Writing Camp helped me.” Though she has tried to offer writing camps here at UNNES in the past, she found it hard to generate the same energy as she experienced in Rochester for a variety of reasons. So, this was a priority for her. She wanted to give her colleagues a chance to experience the shared energy that comes from gathering as a group of writers. She wanted them to see what successful, diligent academic “writing as human and social practice” looks, sounds, and feels like in action. She wants enough of her colleagues and department heads to participate in Writing Camp so that they can collectively encourage the FBS leadership to prioritize writing and make space in the overall faculty agenda for more writing. With such sound reasons, how could I refuse!?
What our December FBS Writing Camp Looked Like
Over the course of six days, from 8 am until 3 pm each day, I opened the doors of the UNNES guest house to welcome writers. We brought in ample snacks, beverages, and power strips to keep writers energized and fueled for their writing. We set goals on a whiteboard, and relished in crossing them off as they were completed. We took a 90 minute break from 11:30 – 1:00 pm to allow participants time for prayer, lunch, and informal socializing. Just like back in Rochester, I used my cell phone to set timers for long writing blocks and short breaks each hour…and by the end of the week, writers here were responding just like writers back home when they heard the chime of the timer going off.
I used break times and other opportunities to offer coaching to the participants, covering such topics as crafting a focused research question, the benefits of free-writing, setting small and achievable writing goals, carving a dissertation up into multiple publishable pieces, organizing a literature review, and sustaining energy and making time in our busy faculty schedules for writing. I also got a great deal of writing accomplished myself, including five blog posts and Puji and I worked on a revise and resubmit we have for an article from her dissertation research.
We spread out around the guest house, using every available workspace imaginable. We weathered Tuesday’s storm and power outage at the end of the day, which spilled over into an area-wide blackout on Wednesday until after lunch. Speaking of lunch, I worked with the daughter of one of the participants who is a budding entrepreneur and talented cook, to have delicious, and nutritious, healthy Indonesian lunches brought in for us. Andra did such a great job of providing us with food that met with my requests and kept all of us fueled for productivity. As happens during Writing Camp back in the U.S., our lunch breaks served as wonderful opportunities to build community over a shared meal and conversation.
What our Participants Thought of the Experience
Lecturer of Visual Arts Department
As we wrapped up the final day of Writing Camp, one of the committee members filmed short videos documenting a few of the participants’ reactions to Writing Camp, and their suggestions for future offerings. It brings me great joy to hear what everyone accomplished in a week of focused attention on writing in an environment designed to support our productivity. Over the week, I really appreciated being able to guide Bu Rahina (above), who explains that “after months of struggling, finally, I have found my research question” (See her full video here).
Yusnita S. Ningrum
Lecturer of English Department
Bu Yusnita liked the “sphere and the zest from all the participants of this writing camp” better than the “tranquility and peacefulness” available in the library – she found it helpful to be surrounded by other writers because she became “reluctant” to stop working when she could see others continuing to work. She made great progress on her research analysis.
Lecturer of English Department
Bu Zulfa talks about how she was able to give new life to a dormant, rejected manuscript, using her time in Writing Camp to find a new venue to which to send it. In her reflection, she notes a common theme of appreciation about how the shared energy in Writing Camp encourages us to stay focused and avoid the distractions on our computers that can sometimes disrupt our writing.
Lecturer of English Department
And, Bu Imas valued the concentrated time that Writing Camp gave her to finish writing her textbook. She found the week better than the typical pattern of writing “here and there, now and then.” She explains that “when we really dedicate our time specifically for writing, we can finish it!”
We picked this particular week – Silent Week – because it afforded a week of time during which students are preparing for their final exams. Writing Camp seemed to work well for the lecturers. So well in fact that I overheard many of them talk about how they’re planning to continue writing together between now and our next week-long Writing Camp, scheduled for the last full week I am here in Semarang before leaving, during their semester break. I look forward to continuing to foster and participating in this community of writers, and I hope that what we build here between now and February 1 will become a sustaining practice for this faculty.