International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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“It was an oasis in a busy life, a busy city”: The CLTD writing retreat

Jane Castle, Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesbur, Jane.castle@wits.ac.za

Moyra Keane, Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Moyra.keane@wits.ac.za


In this paper we propose the off-campus, residential writing retreat as a repository for restoration, regeneration and renewal in the high-stress context of an urban, research-intensive university in South Africa. We argue that ‘process’ oriented’ writing retreats such as the CLTD retreat enhance personal growth, sharing, enjoyment and identity as a writer, while also offering opportunities to (re)build trust and collegiality in the institution. We propose that this type of retreat is a viable alternative to more structured, performance-based writing interventions such as writing-for-publication courses and structured retreats.
Drawing on our experience as facilitators and participants in writing retreats, and situating our study as a close-up analysis of our own purposefully designed writing retreat, we begin the paper with an account of the demanding, stressful university context in which the CLTD writing retreat is situated. We then reflect on the growing body of literature on writing retreats and examine the claims made for ‘process oriented’ retreats and more ‘structured’ retreats. We argue in favour of the former. We use Dirkx’s transformative learning theory as a theoretical framework for the study.
We employed a distinctive design and process for this study by convening a four-day writing retreat for our writing group. We employed the same structure, processes and technique we used when facilitating the CLTD writing retreat for others. We describe the research design and the process of research writing in some detail in the paper.
We present the research results in the form of a thick, rich description of the case and the conditions that made the CLTD writing retreat take the form it did. In this way, the study has intrinsic rather than instrumental value. As an evaluative study it weighs up the value or ‘worthwhileness’ of the writing retreat as a particular case. The case study incorporates participants’ evaluative comments on the retreats as well as extracts of their and our free writes. We conclude the paper by reflecting on the difference the retreat has made for writers as individuals, and also for the institution. We weigh up the prospects for wider up-take in the university going forward.

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)

Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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