Writing Initiatives

The Art History Graduate Writing Initiative addresses diverse writing needs and accommodates students at different stages in their academic training.

Our vision is to provide writing support beyond the mechanics of writing, so as to address the place of writing in each student’s life and career, and to enable them to develop healthy, productive, fulfilling and effective relations to their work as academic writers.

Our Goals

  • Building a healthy and vibrant writing community in the department, involving students and faculty.
  • Increasing writing productivity through weekly writing and the development of reliable habits and practices.
  • Offering training and guidance specific to art and architectural history.
  • Increasing the rate of on-time degree completion.
  • Increasing competitiveness for securing fellowships, postdoctoral, and academic positions.

Writing Outside

Weekly Writing Groups

Geared towards enhancing productivity through free-writing and timed writing sessions led by student facilitators and governed by the student writing group committee.

Contact Heba Mostafa for the 2023–24 Weekly Writing Group session information!

Writing Notebook

Writing Workshops

Offered twice a semester, these workshops provide tailored training on topics such as writing productivity, note-taking, professional writing and the practice of writing with a rotating selection offered each year.

Writing Together

End of Term In-House Day-Long Intensive Writing Retreats

An in-house/on-campus writing day, dedicated to working on term papers to take place on the Friday or weekend of the last week of classes, each term. The event is from 9:00 am–5:00 pm.

Writing Retreat

3-Day Immersive Summer Writing Retreat

A unique opportunity for students to write in a tranquil, communal, inspiring setting away from their usual places and routines. The retreat operates on an open model of individually structured writing days, along with shared meals and daily group reflection on various aspects and writing experiences. Helen Sword’s Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write (Harvard, 2017), is the text that we have adopted, and that most closely exemplifies the approach taken by our Writing Initiative.

Organization and Funding

The Art History Writing Initiative is led by Prof. John Paul Ricco and Prof. Heba Mostafa and has been generously funded by the Faculty of Arts and Science Milestones and Pathways Program since 2018. It is open to all graduate students at the Department of Art History.

John Paul Ricco has 25 years graduate teaching experience, in which he has guided masters and doctoral students in their academic writing. While a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, Ricco was trained in the University’s Writing Program and continues to follow its approach to good writing as a study of readers that is focused on clarity and coherence. In his years teaching at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago; Cornell University; Texas Tech University; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and for the past thirteen years at the University of Toronto, Ricco has enabled students to reach and at times exceed their goals and aspirations as writers. Developing strong mentoring relationships and using a hands-on approach that involves regular meetings, consultation and feedback, Ricco’s students are guided through the stages of writing from the framing of a topic, to conceptual development, to compositional structure and coherent argumentation. On average, the PhD students he has supervised have completed their dissertation theses and degree requirements within five years and have gone on to successful academic and non-academic careers. He is committed to cultivating in students the pleasures of writing, and the daily routines and “scenes” that can make writing a productive and fulfilling activity.

Heba Mostafa has been a writing group facilitator, trainer and participant since 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, while a doctoral student at Cambridge University, she was trained in writing group facilitation and writing productivity by Dr. Rowenna Murray (writing productivity specialist and author of How to Write a Thesis) and other visiting specialists. She set up and managed writing groups at the University of Cambridge; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Kansas, and the Kunst Historisches Institute in Florence-Max Planck Foundation, Italy. At Cambridge she consulted with the Office of Graduate Development on a university program to set up graduate writing groups. In 2014–16, she was a workshop facilitator at the University of Kansas’ Writing Center and helped develop faculty writing productivity programs in consultation with the Office of the Dean of Faculty Affairs. At the University of Toronto, in partnership with Dr. John Paul Ricco (former Director of Graduate Studies), she has been running the Art History Writing Initiative since 2018 (funded by Milestones and Pathways in 2018–20).