Workshops

A writing workshop is an exercise in turn taking. A writer shares copies of a piece she is working on with the members of her group, reads  a section of the text aloud, and then quietly takes notes as her readers offer their impressions and advice. After all the readers have responded, the writer may ask them questions and the group can have a less structured conversation about the piece. Then the group moves on to the next writer and his piece—and the same process is repeated until everyone in the group has received feedback on their work.

I’d like you to structure your conversation along the lines of the following loose script:

Writers

  • Bring copies of your writing to the workshop (or circulate them beforehand).
  • Tell your readers the kinds of feedback you would most like get to your writing, or any questions or concerns you may have about your piece.
  • Read your piece (or sections of it) aloud.
  • Listen quietly and take notes on the responses of your readers.
  • Ask questions after all the readers have responded to your work.
  • Collect the annotated copies of your text from your readers.

Readers

Before reading

Take notes on any issues or questions raised by the writer or your teacher.

While reading

Read along with the writer with a pen in your hand.

  • Mark effective passages with a straight line.
  • Mark passages you want to ask questions about with a squiggly line.
  • Circle or bracket key terms or ideas.

After reading

Once the writer finishes reading, take a minute or two to jot down some notes on:

  • What the writer is trying to accomplish in this draft (or section),
  • What works best,
  • What the writer most needs to work on next, and
  • Any other issues or questions raised by the writer or your teacher.

Draw on your notes to offer the writer some advice towards revision. If you’ve already responded in writing to this draft, try to add to (rather simply repeat) your written comments. Similarly, each reader should try to add in some way to the remarks of previous readers.

Once all of the readers have had their say, it’s the writer’s turn to talk again. The conversation at this point can be less structured. The writer may want to ask readers questions about their comments, or about moments in the text you didn’t talk about yet. Readers might want to raise some new points or offer some additional advice.

Before the group moves on to talk about the next piece, readers should return their annotated (and signed) copy of the text to the writer.

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