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University of Virginia UVA Arts & Sciences Default

Summer Writing Retreat Debuts at Morven Farm

Aug 27, 2019 |

The College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences offered a five-day writers’ retreat in July, and 16 faculty members took advantage of the opportunity to advance their work on summer writing projects.

Molly Angevine / A&S Communications

The July 8–12 retreat at Morven Farm provided breakfast, lunch, and essential writing fuel (coffee) to faculty in a secluded setting where they could focus intensively on their writing, free from distractions. The retreat also afforded the opportunity for participants to share writing strategies and to hold themselves accountable for writing goals established with a faculty “partner” at the retreat. Faculty from all three Arts & Sciences divisions — the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities — attended the retreat, A&S Dean Brie Gertler said.

“It was like a library. People were silently writing everywhere: at tables in the main room, on sofas near the fireplace, at an old desk in the attic — even in the theater.” Gertler said. “And then at lunch, faculty from across all our divisions would sit together and discuss their projects. As a writer and a scholar, it just makes you more productive having a retreat-like setting to focus on your work. Learning about other people’s projects is a side benefit.”

One of the participants, Tamika Carey, associate professor of English, said that while creative writers have long appreciated the value of retreats and residencies to focus and develop the clarity needed for long projects, it's taken much longer for academic circles to catch up to this practice.

“It’s not that we don’t have that discipline. It’s that we often don’t have that opportunity to just be able to go somewhere and really kind of focus and develop a project,” Carey said. “So one of the things that made the Morven writing retreat attractive to me, beyond its location, is the fact that it was five days, which allowed me to feel like I was going to work on my writing.

“Sometimes, it’s good to have that kind of devoted time to really focus on a project and also an end point, because you know you have five days to focus.”

The following faculty members, in addition to Carey, participated in the writing retreat:

  • Gabrielle Adams (Psychology)
  • Sylvia Shin Huey Chong (English/American Studies)
  • Elizabeth Ellcessor (Media Studies)
  • Nichole M. Flores (Religious Studies)
  • Bonnie Gordon (Music)
  • Tobias Grossmann (Psychology)
  • Jeb Livingood (Creative Writing)
  • Brad Pasanek (English)
  • Tony Perry (African-American and African Studies)
  • Rachel Augustine Potter (Politics)
  • George Sampson (Art)
  • David Singerman (History/American Studies)
  • Kelly Ann Sulick (Music)
  • Sophie Trawalter (Psychology)
  • Amrisha Vaish (Psychology)

The College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is exploring the possibility of hosting additional writers’ retreats in future summers.