Considerations for organising and running writing events.
Writing retreats encourage participants to set aside a block of time and concentrate on distraction-free writing. Such events can be held in person or online. We have put together this resource for those thinking about planning virtual writing communities and events, including some practical tips and guidance for planning the event. This resource draws from the experiences of the Society’s Research Groups organising writing retreats in many forms.
One of the key benefits of a virtual writing retreat is the possibility to attract a wide and diverse audience. International attendees who would not be able to travel to an in-person location can join from wherever they are, and the event can run across multiple time-zones. A virtual event may also be beneficial for those stretched on time, as they have the option to take a flexible approach to participation.
Virtual writing retreats are also relatively cheap to organize. As many digital platforms are either low cost or free, there is likely to be minimal cost spent on a ‘venue’. Likewise, there will be no cost spent on travel.
In a time of disrupted and restricted travel, online writing groups can foster a sense of community and solidarity, providing a shared space to interact and carve out time for writing.
Virtual Writing Retreats/ Groups can take many different forms, depending on their main purpose (specific collaborative writing project, time for writing), who is attending and how much time they can give.
See below for a few helpful examples, that demonstrate just a few of the forms a virtual writing group can take. All have been organized by the Society’s Research Groups:
Example 1: The Historical Geography Research Group Virtual Writing Retreat
This retreat has now been run four times, as a focused annual event running over three consecutive days. The two most recent ones were held as online-only events, with the following format.
Participants were encouraged to join for as much or as little time as they could.
The group shared a workbook prior to the event, which gave attendees some preparation tips and an idea for what to expect.
As the key focus of this event was to set aside time and focus on writing, there was no structured timetable, and the approach was self-directed.
Participants were encouraged to ‘check in’ via Twitter and were invited to an optional Zoom meet-up at the end of the three days to discuss their experience.
Example 2: The Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group: Get Happy and Write
The Get Happy and Write events happen bi-weekly, with each session lasting for three hours.
Each session starts with aa pre-organized wellbeing activity, such as yoga or crafts, to provide attendees with a chance to socialize and unwind. The remaining time is dedicated to writing.
This event is open to the anyone in the community to attend, and whilst there are a regular group of core attendees, new joiners are welcome.
Example 3: The Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group Virtual Writing Community
The GCYFRG Virtual Writing Community is a group of researchers who use a shared mailing list to support each other with writing and propose virtual meetups.
The Virtual Writing Community emerged from a week-long research group writing retreat held face-to-face in July 2019, which was followed in 2020 with a week-long virtual retreat. Attendees at the two retreats were invited to join a self-organising virtual writing group which other research group members can apply to join.
Half or full day writing sessions are organized by the participants themselves, and members are invited to join whichever events they are available to attend.
The group is also planning another week-long virtual retreat in July 2021.
All the general advice that applies to online events – scheduling, selecting the appropriate platform, inviting attendees, facilitating the event – all apply equally to virtual writing events.
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