A Retreat for Writers

Jan 16, 2020

Faculty members gather at SAI Farm for a day of productivity, collegiality and scholarship.

  • - Darla Timbo, psychology (left), and Ayanna Lyles, health science.

  • - Kristen Schaffner, psychology.

  • - Kimberly Vanderlaan, English

  • - Rodney Taylor, FDI Scholar, English.

More than a dozen faculty members gathered at SAI Farm on Jan. 16 in search of a precious commodity: Time. Uninterrupted time to focus on writing and scholarship before the start of the spring semester on Jan. 21. 

They found it, along with the support of their colleagues, at a writers retreat organized by the Frederick Douglass Institute at Cal U. 

“The intention of the retreat was to foster a culture of collegiality amongst academic departments of Cal U,” said Rodney Taylor, a Frederick Douglass scholar in the Department of English, who was the lead organizer.  “And to understand that while each discipline is unique, we all have to write.” 

Faculty members’ goals for the day included working on syllabi, dissertations and journal articles; applying for grants; drafting lines of poetry; preparing manuscripts; and writing lyrics and music. They were instructed to dress comfortably, to have realistic goals, and by all means to bring “creature comforts,” like coffee, of course. 

“It’s an opportunity to have a time slot to get this type of work done,” said geology professor Dr. Tom Mueller. “Getting a research article out there in a journal takes a lot of time and dedication. There is always something else that seems to take priority when you’re trying to write your research.” 

The institute designs programs that honor the legacy of Frederick Douglass and his belief in education and equality, said director Dr. Ayanna Lyles. 

“The FDI seeks to amplify the intellectual vitality and potential of all faculty, staff, and students at the University,” she said. “One way to foster intellectual growth is to allow space for faculty to take the time to work on individual professional goals.” 

Jessica Spradley, an FDI scholar in the Department of History, Politics, Society and Law, offered a yoga class at the retreat. The basic poses and breathing exercises are intended to focus the mind, she said, and can be done throughout a busy day when a mental break is needed. 

“Rod and I talked about how hard it can be to get in the mental space to write. If we can teach ourselves how to be mindful, how to calm down and relax, we can create 5 or 10 minutes of rest to get our minds to be rejuvenated.” 

The writers retreat was funded by the College of Liberal Arts.