Hosting a Write-In FAQ
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to plan and run a write-in. If you have a question or concern that is not addressed below, feel free to reach out to us via email.
What is a write-in?
A write-in is an event that brings writers together and offers them snacks and support for their writing process. Write-ins can alleviate the isolation of writing alone and help foster a campus writing community. At Swarthmore, these events typically take place in the evening and are planned and hosted by the Writing Associates Program. At other institutions, the writing center or library might decide to sponsor a write-in. A write-in may be open to the entire campus community or to specific groups (e.g. first-year students, fellowship applicants, or faculty), depending on the goal of the event.
How do you plan a write-in?
Here are some steps we’ve used:
- Choose a date when students are likely to be focused on writing projects and a timeframe that seems feasible (i.e., 8pm-midnight).
- Reserve two spaces: a “quiet room” for writers who prefer no interruptions and a “social space” where writers can work, talk, snack and meet with peer tutors.
- Identify peer tutors who will be able to work during the event--for set up, as hosts (greeting students, replenishing snacks, keeping track of numbers of attendees), to hold conferences with writers, and for clean up.
- Select and purchase snacks, drinks, and supplies. (Sometimes we’ve had themes; other times we just provide what we know our students like).
- Create and distribute promotional materials (posters, social media, sidewalk chalking, etc).
- On the day of the event, hang signage throughout the building to guide students towards the write-in.
- On the night of the write-in, make sure that the building will remain unlocked and lighted if writers will be staying late.
When should we hold a write-in?
Schedule write-ins to coincide with student availability and interest--we’ve had good luck with Sunday and Monday evenings at mid-term and as finals approach, but each campus will have its own rhythms.
Where should we hold a write-in?
Write-ins can be held anywhere students may find it comfortable to write. When considering where to hold a write-in, it is important to note the space’s lighting, sound qualities, furniture, and function. In the past, the Writing Associates Program has hosted write-ins at campus coffee bars and in classrooms, but have also considered libraries, dorms, and other common spaces.
More recently, we have gravitated towards a “takeover” platform where the event occurs in two classrooms near the Writing Center.
Who staffs a write-in?
In our center, three to five peer tutors – working in two-hour shifts – will staff a write-in for 30-50 students. In addition, one or two Coordinators (student members of our leadership team) will serve as designated “supervisors,” present during the entire event. This allows for peer tutors to meet with writers who may have questions, while the supervisors attend to the snack table, record conferences, and greet incoming students. The first shift sets up; the last shift cleans up.
What supplies are needed for a write-in?
It’s not necessary to provide supplies--beyond a space with tables and chairs. We often provide snacks and drinks as encouragement (chips, salsa, guacamole, cheese and crackers, fruit, etc.). If you are offering food, you will need plates, cups, napkins, etc. For larger write-ins, we often include a special snack that coincides with a study break—like decorate-your-own cookies. What is important to consider is the cleanup: snacks like cheese and crackers are much easier to clean up than Nutella and bananas or fondue (not recommended).
For office supplies, the Writing Associates Program has found it helpful to have notepads, pens, pencils, colored markers, highlighters, and a Center iPad available to use during conferences.
How do you advertise a write-in?
Write-ins are promoted through posters, social media, campus emails, and word of mouth campaigns. Some peer tutors have volunteered to stand up and promote the write-ins in class. These so called “class callouts” are often on-the-spot advertisements: for example, if a professor assigns an essay and passes out a prompt, a peer tutor may stand up and tell the class that they can work on the assignment at the upcoming write-in.
So… what actually happens during a write-in?
Writers are welcome to work on their own or alongside friends and may even consult one of the peer tutors on duty. Peer tutors working the write-in sit together in a visible location, accessible to anyone who enters the space. It helps to have signs indicating which peer tutors are working each shift.
At larger write-ins, there might be activities or snacks connected to a special study break. For example, the Fall 2015 International Write-In had an ABC-themed study break and a space for coloring where writers could recharge. What matters most is that the write-in serves as a comfortable and productive writing space.