WriteOut! History

WriteOutFrancesca and Michelle met in a Salsa class in 2002 and took lessons together for several weeks before realizing they worked in different departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When both were Associate Directors at UIC's Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy, they dreamed up WriteOut! in the spring of 2012.

Both of them understood the challenges that students face while working on their dissertations. And they were committed to supporting the next generation of race/ethnicity scholars by helping them improve their writing practice. WriteOut! is Francesca's brainchild and when she was at IRRPP she was responsible for its smooth administration, including publicity, admission, fundraising, financial management, evaluation, and web updates. Michelle is in love with writing and wants every other academic to fall in love with it too. Michelle, who now runs her own academic writing retreat (InkWell), co-developed the program with Francesca, suggested the daily coaching component, met and coached with retreat participants from 2012 to 2014, and developed the writing resource guide.


Since the very first faculty WriteOut! in July 2015, faculty have benefited from writing coaching with Jill Petty. Jill has worked in progressive media for more than 15 years. In that time, she has worked as an editor-publisher for South End Press and provided editing services for other leading social justice publishers, including Haymarket Press and Aunt Lute Press. Additionally, she has directed communications/community engagement efforts for Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides legal representation to poor people; and for Partners In Health, an NGO that provides health care and socioeconomic services in Latin America, Africa, and the US. Jill earned her BA in English at Grinnell College and her MA in English at Duke University, with concentrations in Women's Studies and African American Studies. She is currently a (Chicago-based) Senior Editor with Beacon Press, and a teaching collective member with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Program.


To date, WriteOut! has inspired the following programs at UIC:

  • Lisa Frohmann in the department of Criminology, Law & Justice organized writing retreats for CLJ students called “WriteOut CLJ.”
  • Mark Martell, in his previous position at the Office of Career Services, organized student writing retreats called “WriteAway!”
  • Benn Williams of the Graduate College has been holding regular writing sessions since the Fall of 2014, in collaboration with Marie Khan, called “Get Your Write ON!”