Running a Writing Workshop

I’m posting a series of handouts that I’ve prepared for past writing seminars. Here’s one on forming a writing workshop. A workshop can help you to be accountable to other writers and regularly produce pages.

Naomi’s Guidelines for Running a Writing Workshop

  • Determine goals and purpose with first the organizers and then the group.

Is it to help people get their creative works in better shape?

Is it to make them feel more emboldened and encouraged as writers?

Is it to build community?

(It also can be a process—you can start with one goal and then move into another.)

  • Meeting place: safe, neutral, convenient, well-lit with little noise distractions. Should be around a table.
  • The facilitator needs to control and direct the discussions. Set the ground rules and the time. Try to end promptly at the time stated. If people want to hang around, that’s their choice.
  • Ground rules:

People need to treat each other in respectful way.

What is shared in the group, stays in group. (Even domestic partners should not be told about details of someone’s story before its time.)

Logistics:

Should people e-mail or snail-mail their essays before the group? (Usually a week ahead of time is sufficient.)

If you distribute writings before the meeting time, have each person write his/her name of his/her copy and write notes in the margins i.e. good, effective, confusing, etc. If someone is so inclined, they can even make proofreading marks.

During the workshop, you can either have the person read the entire piece or else immediately launch into comments. After the reading, the writer should be in the “cone of silence.” The facilitator should then direct the discussion about the piece.  Always open with the work’s strengths and then move into the weaknesses. After people have made their comments, the writer is released from the “cone of silence” and can respond to comments.

Facilitator should make sure that certain people don’t dominate the conversation. Ask silent people if they would like to comment.

The facilitator can even make a list of questions that will apply to every piece or even individual pieces.

After workshopping a piece, everyone returns his/her copy of it to the author.  Individuals can request copies, but it’s up to the author’s discretion. Otherwise, everyone should erase/delete digital submissions.