Formal Workshop Format and Responsibilities

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. 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 to its listeners. 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—“I really like this kind of poem”, “I found this story difficult to follow”—does not, in itself, constitute constructive criticism.


As an editor, your responsibilities are to read the story carefully, to prepare notes that answer the questions above, 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, you are responsible for leading the second part of workshop, in which first, you’ll need to post or hand out four questions about the piece to the class BEFORE the workshop takes place that solicits respectfully delivered information from each of the workshop members on how the writer might make the piece more effective. Most of all, you must make the feedback the writer receives coherent and useful. To this end, you will also be responsible for a response of 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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