Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter for musings about Researcher Development and the PGR experience…interspersed with tweets about superheros and sewing.
Over the summer, we decided to start a Write Club.
What on earth is a ‘Write Club’? Well, the first rule of Write Club is…only kidding.
Write Club is an initiative in the Doctoral College that provides time and space of our PGRs and ECRs to get together and write. Once a month we fill our training rooms with tea, coffee, and the sound of 10-15 PGRs and ECRs tapping away at their computers and talking about writing.
Write Club aims to address a very specific need. We need, as an institution, to support our PGRs, our ECRs, and our academics with their writing. Although we don’t like to admit it, writing is hard. We all struggle with it – whether you are a newly-minted PGR or a Professor with decades of publication experience. But the problem is we write is silos – alone at home, or in our offices, with an endless supply of coffee and frequent frustrated sighs. We struggle to ‘get the best words in the best order’ (to paraphrase Coleridge), and we internalise rather than talk about that struggle. And although I don’t have photographic evidence to prove it, I suspect we are all at some point sat, in our offices, struggling with writing.
Write Club aims to change that.
We got the idea from our lovely colleagues in Geography, where Dr. Sarah Dyer started a Write Club after attending a writing retreat led by Dr. Rowena Murray. When we were asked to expand our writing support in the Doctoral College, we picked Sarah’s brains and stole (with her permission) both the name and the concept of offering a regular space for our researchers to get together and write.
The community aspect of Write Club is central to what we are trying to achieve. Part of the aim of the suite of initiatives we are working on is to build a culture and community of practice where we share our experiences of writing. We want to challenge and intervene in the culture of writing alone in our offices. The group doesn’t exist simply to ‘get writing done’ – although we hope it helps! We want to develop an engaged and vibrant writing culture at the University, which exists alongside our evolving research culture.
These aims aren’t just based on our own experiences as researchers and writers – there’s lots of research out there on the benefits of talking about writing. I’ve already referenced Rowena Murray who has done extensive research in this area, and I also recommend Pat Thomson and Barbara Kamler’s monograph Helping Doctoral Students Write (2014), which has some helpful discussions about the social practice of writing.
One of the joyful things about our first Write Club was that one of our PGRs Edward Mills baked tiffin for us. The introduction of baked goods brought a friendliness and collegiality to our first meeting – it relaxed the room, put us on more open terms, and created a sense of shared space and ownership. That’s what I, as a developer, want for this group. So it looks like I better get baking. And who knows – it may even get me ready for Bake Off 2018…
Want to know more about Write Club? This is the first in a series of posts by Researcher Development Manager Kelly Preece that highlights and reflects on the evolution of a writing support framework in the Doctoral College.