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This article first appeared in Nexus, the Australian College of Theology Research Magazine, June 2018. Written by Jill Firth.
We started the Ridley women’s writing group as a response to the question “Why are there no women in my bibliographies?”. It’s a long term project. If we start building up women’s writing now, maybe in a decade we will see a flow of publications of academic quality. Some group members have already published books, chapters or journal articles, while others are just beginning to write. The group includes graduates, ministry professionals and students. We meet in the college dining room a couple of times each semester, from 5.30-8.45pm. Each meeting begins with snacks and drinks, then a communal writing sprint, a quick pizza and pavlova dinner, and the writing circles.
Communal writing sprints (also known as Shut Up and Write, SUAW) are broken into 25 minute pomodoros (the original timer was a tomato shaped timer , pomodoro in Italian) where everyone types or writes silently with a 5 minute break for a chat, refill of drinks and snacks. Kate worked on a New Testament essay, Philippa wrote a sermon, Moyra edited a draft of her book and Christine used the time for reflective writing. Philippa, a school chaplain, commented, ‘The two ‘shut up and write’ sessions at the start are so helpful. I sit and write. I get the thoughts down and then in the days that follow I can craft. The writing group is a big help in getting going.’ Christine, a missions executive, agreed, ‘I love coming here for an uninterrupted opportunity to write.’
The Writing Circles are small groups which have discussed conference papers, book chapters, articles for journals, and popular writing for magazines, newspapers and blogs. At our recent meeting on May 7, we read a blog for the Anglican Communion website, a research proposal and a journal article.
Rachael Lopez, a Ridley graduate, brought a draft of her blogpost ‘Yearning for Connection’ to be published on the Anglican Communion website. ‘After silently reading the 400 word draft, our table group responded to the content and style of the blog, before shifting to editorial mode, reading paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence, suggesting possible improvements to remove ambiguity, strengthen impact and develop metaphors,’ said Jill, who facilitated the conversation.
Suzie Ray’s MA research proposal on a biblical response to alcohol was engaging for her group. Suzie said, ‘By booking in to bring a piece of writing for discussion I gave myself a deadline, which was really helpful. In the discussion I received by useful perspectives to improve my writing and wonderful encouragement to motivate me going forward.’ Diane Hockridge, the table facilitator, commented, ‘The group brainstormed this interesting topic and workshopped the proposal with Suzie, clarifying the goals and narrowing the research question.’
Elizabeth Culhane, a PhD student, presented a section of a journal article on the influence of Henri de Lubac on theologian William Cavanaugh (currently under review at a journal) generated a lively conversation. ‘Most of the discussion was unpacking the ideas in the paper,’ Elizabeth said. ‘It is valuable to interact with people writing in very different disciplines and styles,’ commented Moyra Dale, who has published a range of books and articles on missiology. Philippa agreed, ‘the session of looking at another’s writing is both instructive and reflective.’ ‘We are looking forward to establishing a virtual group for those who live interstate or in remote areas,’ says Diane, ‘We are planning for a date near our September 10 meeting.’
Ridley’s annual women’s conference, Evangelical Women in Academia, has attracted international attention. ‘I would like to see one in the US. I’d like to see one in every country, actually’ tweeted Tish Harrison Warren@Tish_H_Warren