Leading Workshops

Workshop Format

Workshop will only work if you do. As a writer, you can’t really tell what your work is doing on its own if you are constantly providing explanations to the group; thus the time-honored “gag rule” is in place for the first part of the workshop. This rule disallows writers from speaking until the final few minutes of the workshop, in which they can ask questions of the group (not defend their work against the various interpretations that have been articulated during the workshop). As the writer, you should spend your time writing down and thinking about the suggestions/interpretations your work is generating so that your questions can be as useful as possible.

As an editor, you have to be conscious of the fact that before you can give the writer any meaningful critique for their piece, you must be able to describe the piece and what it is doing; thus workshop will begin by describing the piece and what it seems to mean. All advice should be tailored, specifically and concretely, to getting the piece to achieve what it seems to have set up for itself as a goal. Some responses that aren’t that helpful include: “I really like this kind of poem” or “I found this story difficult to follow.”

Responsibilities

As an editor (that is, if you are not in the group charged with running the workshop), your responsibilities are to read the story carefully, to prepare notes that represent your thoughts about the various features of the story, and to bring a copy of the text to class. Each editor is responsible for contributing fully, equally, and respectfully to the conversation and to working from written notes. When the workshop is over you should provide the draft of the story to the writer with your notes.

As a workshop co-leader (that is, your group is running the workshop), you need to have questions and observations for the class to respond to. You should have in the ballpark of fifteen discussion questions. We won’t likely get to them all, but we might. If you don’t have questions that can drive the discussion forward, everyone’s grade on the assignment suffers.

You (each member of your group) are also charged with writing a coherent response (at least 200 words) to each story that you are the workshop leader for. These write ups will be due to the writer on the day of workshop and to me in your final portfolio.

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