J-Term Retreat Virtually Connects the Miami Writing Community

If you’ve been to a Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HCWE) J-term retreat, you know why it’s our most popular event of the year.

Over four days leading into the Spring semester, dozens of Miami faculty and grad writers post up in every corner of the HCWE’s space in King Library. Coffee percolates. Keyboards flutter. Most don’t hear any of that though. They’ve got headphones on, immersed in their work on writing projects and course plans. It's not until the lunch spread comes out that people disconnect from their laptops and connect with each other, swapping stories about their winter breaks. 

Of course during the pandemic, the J-term retreat as we’ve known it just wasn’t possible. So Ann Updike, Associate Director of the HCWE, devised a plan to capture, in the online environment, the camaraderie and motivation our attendees so value.

Each virtual retreat day followed an itinerary that was organized but also dynamic and flexible. Participants joined by either working on their own or, for more “face-to-face” motivation and camaraderie, joining a video-optional Zoom room. Everyone would start out by signing into a shared spreadsheet, logging their goals, then getting to work. They could launch writing playlists featuring jazz cafe music (welcome sounds for anyone missing morning writing sessions at their favorite coffee shop) and other genres, too, ranging from classical to hip hop and electronic dance music. Regular breaks were scheduled strategically throughout the day to keep attendees fresh and inspired. These breaks linked to brief chair yoga practices and energizing dance workouts from the always-uplifting The Fitness Marshall YouTube channel.

Through these isolating, troubling times, finding the motivation to write can be a real struggle. But there’s just something about putting fixed writing time on your calendar, and having peers to help you stay accountable to your goals, that can carry you past doubt and difficulty. Don’t just take our word for that, hear what retreat attendees themselves had to say:

"The positive energy helped me focus." 

“The support of music playlists, break reminders, yoga and upbeat movement breaks, group presence, and sense of Miami community resources are AWESOME." 

“I was surprised that joining virtually was as productive as going in person — but it was.”

“I improved my concentration and writing.” 

“It’s always nice to have an encouraging and supportive environment that other colleagues are working in.”

We hope you’ll join our virtual Spring 2021 Writing Retreats on Friday, Feb. 26 and Monday, April 12, 8:30AM—4:00PM (Note: A Miami Wellness Day).

Attendance will mostly be virtual, but 6 in-person spots at the HCWE are available for each retreat (pending the COVID situation at the time), first come first serve.

Register (Virtual)

Register (In-person)