The Student Experience | Workshop Guidelines
If you have decided to sign up for a GrubStreet class, we hope you’ll take the time to review our Workshop Guidelines below (you will also be given a hard copy of these guidelines the first night of class). These guidelines outline our approach to workshopping and detail your role in the process. Please remember that we are here to help you achieve your writing goals. Though our workshops are structured, they are flexible. No two workshops are alike. Feel free to share ideas with your group and to talk to your instructor if you have any ideas or suggestions concerning the workshop.
Reading Another Writer’s Work
GrubStreet Workshops are only as strong as their participants. In joining one of our workshops, you are making a commitment to the workshopping process. Though the specific expectations of a class will depend on the format, in all of our workshops you have a responsibility to take the time to read and comment on the work of other participants and to attend as many sessions as you possibly can. Fully engaging in the process will make you a better writer. Reading other people’s work with care will help you develop critical skills essential to your own writing.
During the workshop itself, you should be prepared to say at least one thing you liked about a work and to make at least one suggestion for improvement. Please be as specific as possible. Remember that general comments, such as ”I liked it” or “I didn’t like it,” are not especially useful to the author. Try not to repeat what others have said. We want each writer to benefit from as broad a range of reactions as possible, and we want to force readers to look and think harder about all the ways in which a piece is or isn’t yet working.
For sure, there will be disagreements. There’s little chance a group of writers will ever reach a consensus about a piece of work. Trust your response, think carefully about your reaction, and be as honest as you can. Above all, respect the writer’s work by making sure your comments are constructive and never damaging. Remember that the effort of writing and finishing the first incarnation of a piece of writing is an accomplishment worthy of respect.
In addition to oral comments, for many of our core workshops the instructor may ask that you write comments in the margins of each piece and that you write a paragraph or two at the end summarizing your overall response. If you are absent, please bring your written comments to the next meeting or email them to the writer so that he/she can still benefit from your reading.
Workshopping Your Writing
At some point in the workshop you will have a few minutes to talk—to ask clarifying questions, to voice a particular concern about your work, or to acknowledge trouble spots—but for the bulk of the workshop, until the instructor invites you to speak about your work, we ask that you remain silent. Though this might feel a little strange at first, it’s essential. Often our first response to criticism involves jumping to tell the suddenly offensive reader that he’s wrong or that he just doesn’t get it. This policy of silence protects the entire workshop from these very natural inclinations. Readers need to be able to offer criticism freely and writers need to be open and objective. In order to improve, we have to genuinely listen to feedback.
Think hard about what your classmates say about your work. Some points will make intuitive sense to you. Try to incorporate them into your next piece or your rewrites. Other points won’t seem as helpful. This is to be expected. Our advice is to use what is helpful, and ignore the rest. You’re bound to hear negative comments. Don’t get hung up on them. You’ll never please everyone. Remember that good work is only born of a lot of earlier, less illustrious writing. Writing is rewriting.
After the class is finished discussing your work, you are free to ask questions about the comments or to direct the discussion to issues not covered during your review.
Deadlines and Presentation of Work
Please follow the instructions your workshop leader gives you for distributing your work—and meet your deadlines! Submitting work late erodes the discipline that’s essential for a good workshop, and one missed deadline eases the way for another until chaos reigns. Don’t let that happen. Deadlines are your friends: they force you to finish something, however rough. For most of our workshops, you are responsible for bringing copies of your work to class the week before you are to be critiqued. If you are unable to attend class the week your work is due, you may email the piece to your classmates or bring the copies in a week early. Distributing your work is not the responsibility of your workshop leader.
All work presented to the workshop should be typed, double-spaced, and titled. The pages should be numbered as well as stapled or clipped together.
For More Information
If you have any questions or concerns about the workshop process, please don’t hesitate to bring them up with your instructor. Any questions about payment, registration or logistics, please contact our friendly and knowledgeable office staff at [email protected], or call us at 617.695.0075.