Fellows’ DYI Writing Group Provides Inspiration
In 2015, three Career Enhancement Fellows—Dr. Kinohi Nishikawa, Dr. Carissa M. Harris, and Dr. Rebbeca Tesfai—met at the annual retreat. Out of that event, they created a writing group that has given them mutual support through each of their tenure processes.
Kinohi recalls, “The Retreat was such an affirming experience that three of us based in Philadelphia decided to check in with each other about our writing goals and writing progress on a weekly basis.” More than just a writing group, however, the connection quickly became a source of encouragement and a reminder of the importance of self-care.
Carissa describes the group’s process, which stems from a weekly Monday check-in on goals that also serves as an inspirational boost: “Even if we don’t manage to meet the week’s goals due to teaching, service, or life stuff, it’s still nice to check in,” she says, “and we’re able to remind each other of the importance of taking breaks and restoration.” The group also gathers once a month to circulate a piece of work in progress, catch up, and share feedback.
For Rebbeca, part of the writing group’s value comes from the perspectives of supportive scholars outside of her field: “Although my work is quite different from that of Carissa and Kinohi,” she reports, “I find that the comments I get on my work—and the chance to read things completely outside of my field—have made me a better writer.” Carissa echoes this insight, noting that “[i]t has been so helpful to have support, feedback, and perspective from outside my immediate subfield,” and urges other Fellows to take advantage of similar opportunities.
Since the three Fellows met, the writing group has become an anchor through a series of personal and professional changes. Kinohi reports, “The three of us have earned tenure and gone through a host of life changes: from giving birth to two beautiful boys (Carissa) to buying a home (me) to helping a parent move to the city (Rebbeca). It’s been incredibly rewarding to have gone through all of this in the company of two colleagues who have become dear friends. Our group has made securing that major achievement of tenure even more worthwhile.”
The purpose and content of the group has also evolved as the Fellows’ careers have progressed. Rebbeca says, “We’ve always discussed our current writing projects, but over time we’ve also shared advice and suggestions for the tenure process and academia more broadly.” Carissa adds, “We’re all working on our second book projects now (and in Rebbeca’s case, a new phase of articles and research questions), so we’re figuring out that process together, since we’ve moved beyond the research we completed for the Ph.D.”
Advice for Fellows
With tenure now behind them, these Fellows have a few more pieces of advice for current and recent Career Enhancement Fellows. “Having to produce a piece of writing every month for workshopping kept me consistently productive and enabled me to refrain from panicking as the tenure deadline drew closer,” Carissa says. “It’s also useful to share strategies for building the tenure portfolio and to celebrate one another’s progress through the tenure process during the tenure year.”
Rebbeca stresses the importance of connections: “While the sabbatical itself is important, the relationships you form during the fellowship are really vital. My first suggestion is to make sure that the mentor you choose will have/make the time to work with you during your fellowship period. My mentor… was generous with his time and his advice. My second suggestion,” she adds, “is to find a writing group. I was lucky enough to find one through the Fellowship, but the most important thing is to find a group of people whom you can work with and who (preferably) are local. During the Fellowship, the writing group helped me structure my time. Since then, it has become one of the best things to come from the Fellowship experience.”