To ‘listen’ another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.
– Douglas Steere
No criticism, suggestion, or questions are directed toward the writer in response to first-draft writing.
Do not respond by recalling a memory or story. If the memory is a strong one, then write the story and share it with workshop writers.
Do not address the writer as you, as if the voice of the speaker, the storyteller, the narrator of the writing is the same person as the one workshop reader/writer; instead, say the narrator or name the characters. This is our practice even when the writing is written in the first person, I, even when the writer tells us it is true or autobiographical.
Do not refer to a character as a real person rather than an imagined character, for example, a family member, such as the character my mother, is not the writer’s mother, ie. your mother. She is the mother character.
Do not recall all your thoughts and feelings. Limit your response to one or two aspects of the writing that stood out for you. Leave room for others to comment.
Suggestions for responding:
What is strong
What is powerful
What is brave
What stays with me
What moves me
What surprises me
Point to specific elements by repeating:
Respond as reader, not a critic:
Spring Weekly Workshop Series (10 workshop meetings)
Fall Weekly Workshop Series (10 workshop meetings)
Is Love Revolutionary? Reading/Full Day Writing Workshop, June 23-24: Starlight and Error with poet, Remica Bingham-Risher.
wVw is a community of memoirists, poets, fiction writers, and story-tellers in the Hudson Valley region of New York state. We believe that everyone has a story, real or imagined, worthy of recording as written word. wVw provides safe and structured writing practice for experienced and beginning writers. The Workshop experience is at the core of the wVw community. wVw is an affiliate of Amerherst Writers and Artists.
Claim Writing as Your Art: wVw provides a safe, respectful space where writing can develop as your art
- Write in workshop
- Read to each other what we have just written, when we choose to do so
- Honor one another's work by listening deeply, giving each writer our full attention
- Respond to one another’s writing emphasizing what is strong and what we remember
We meet together for three hours. During that time, there are two writing, reading and response periods with a break for refreshments.
Workshop meetings begin with a free-write so that we transition from the busy-ness of daily life and open ourselves to the flow of words.
We write in response to prompts provided by the workshop leader. Each writer is invited to read newly composed work. You may read or not as seems preferable. There is no pressure. We listen deeply to one another and respond by indicating what we remember, what stays with us. We do not critique brand new writing.
The reading, deep listening and responding to newly written work teaches us to trust our unique voices. We learn how we best tell our stories and use language to make others laugh, cry, think or consider new ways of being in the world.
Writing in the company of male and female writers of all genres, levels of experience, ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic status, sexual orientations, and belief or non-belief systems creates an experience that enriches and deepens our understanding of human nature. As a result, we grow as writers.
Writers are encouraged to submit a manuscript to workshop members, at least once during each weekly workshop series. During manuscript critiques we continue to follow wVw principles and guidelines, but we place greater emphasis on craft and what the writer might do to make the work more effective. We comment and give suggestions as experienced readers who want both the writer and the work (mnauscript) fulfill its potential.
Write Saturday is a full day of inspired writing.
We follow the writing practice described in The Workshop.
The full day (5-6 hours) gives writers extended writing and response times. The day has 3-4 writing and response times. The longer writing times allows writers to relax and become comfortable with letting their words surprise them.
Write Saturday is a great way to experience a wVw workshop for the first time. If a busy schedule prevents you from committing to regular writing practice or one of wVw weekly workshop series, then Write Saturday maybe the right choice for you.
Writers who attend Write Saturdays become eligible to substitute for registered writers in weekly workshop series and to become members of the wVw online community.
wVw invites indivduals or groups to host a Write Saturday:
- provide a suitable location for 8-10 writers to meet and write comfortably
- provide a continental breakfast and afternoon snack
- provide facilities for writers to eat individual lunches or share in a communal "pot luck" lunch
- invite friends and fellow writers to register for Write Saturday
Write Saturday may be hosted by individuals or groups in the Hudson Valley region or elsewhere. Individual hosts are not charged a registration fee. Groups, that gurantee 8-10 writers, receive a discount on total registration fees, ie. fees that would be paid if writers registered individually.
Write Saturday can be designed to meet specific writing needs of a group, such as: a particular genre, eg. poetry, memoir, fiction; or a theme, eg. women's issues, religious or spiritual practice.
Submit a Manuscript
Revision is a matter of choice. So don’t resist it or resent it, and don’t misunderstand its importance. All writing is re-writing. As a writer, you have the opportunity and the duty to rework your story to find the best word you can, the precise phrase . . . .
Writers are encouraged to submit manuscripts once during each 8 – 10 weekly workshop meeting series. This is not a requirement of workshop, but many writers appreciate the opportunity.
A manuscript is any piece of writing written in or outside of workshop to which a writer would like to receive feedback from other writers in workshop. Preparing a manuscript for submission leads you to focus attention and time on a first or early draft You re-vision the work more fully and take into consideration its impact on an audience, as well as how well the writing portrays your intent and self-expression. bring it to a place where you want to share it with a supportive, knowledgeable community of writers. We honor manuscripts in the same way we honor new writing.
You may submit poetry, personal essay or memoir, short story or a chapter from a work of fiction or non-fiction. You may submit work of any length; workshop members will identify a portion, ie. number of pages, submitted to which they can give their full attention.
Preparing a manuscript for submission:
- You may submit a manuscript on paper or electronically to workshop members to read (electronic submission may be email or web site blog).
- You should prepare manuscript copies, 12 pt font, double-spaced, single-sided, white paper.
- You must prepare sufficient copies for all workshop members to hold use during the discussion.
- Manuscripts copies should be distributed or posted online, at least one week prior to scheduled review.
- have time to read, consider and comment on manuscripts (usually one week)
- comments are written, as well discussed
- comments note both strengths and weaknesses
Guidelines: Responding to Manuscripts
The most valuable and effective response we can give to early draft writing (writing in the process of becoming a publishable manuscript) is to be an attentive and sensitive reader. At this stage in the writing process, the writer needs to know and understand how the text affects a reader.
First, read as a reader
A good reader is someone who enters the text fully, emotionally, intellectually and with great sympathy for anyone who has the courage to put words on paper. Good readers notice and record their experience of reading a text without judgment or trying to fix it. When a writer is given a reader’s in-depth experience of a text, then a writer can take that knowledge and use it, or not, as the writer chooses.
Our role is not to be a critic or proofreader. A critic assesses the value and quality of text to provide guidance and advice to prospective readers. Nor are we proofreaders whose role is to correct, improve or fix a text. We give the gift of being the very best readers of one another’s writing as we can possibly be. Our goal is to support the writer in creating an strong, powerful and memorable work.
Read without a pen or pencil in hand. Read the complete manuscript (or as much as workshop members have committed to reading) before making any written responses or notations in the margins.
Note Your Reading Experience
Note the strengths of the manuscript and those places in the text (manuscript) where as reader you are moved, surprised, excited, saddened, laughed, etc. Point to language, images, actions, etc that stay with you after reading the text (manuscript).
Also note of the following:
• how the writing moves you, makes you feel, think or experience the world
• where you are drawn in, step into the piece, live in its world
• where you are pushed out of the text and do not stay with its action, characters, etc
• where you have questions or need more information
• the authenticity and honesty of voice and language, especially in use of dialogue
• identification with characters, situations, ideas, etc (be careful to use “I” statements)
• imagery, metaphor if it is present, it need not be
• music of the language: alliteration, assonance, rhyme, meter, etc
• if poetry: impact of appearance of poem on page, line breaks, etc
Help the writer to re-see the text (manuscript). Make suggestions to the writer that would strengthen your reading experience of the text (manuscript).
Since this is not a proofreading of the text. Only note grammar or mechanical issues where they interfere with your ability to understand or appreciate the text (manuscript), where you are pushed out, or your reading of the text (manuscript) is disrupted. If you observe a pattern of grammar or mechanical issues, point to 1 or 2 examples, then in your summary describe the pattern you observe. Leave it to the writer to correct.
Summarize your reading experience. Keep summary brief, 3-5 statements.
Finally, sign your name to your comments. Bring manuscript to workshop and return to writer once in-workshop discussion is completed.
The Manuscript Discussion
I. We begin by reading manuscript quietly to ourselves.
II. The manuscript is read aloud – twice. We hear it first in the voice of a reader other than the writer, then we hear it in the voice of the writer. Listen to both readers carefully -- note where a reader adds or subtracts, hesitates, falters, or stumbles.
III. There are three (3) rounds of response and commentary. During first two (2) rounds, the writer does not participate. The writer listens, takes notes, etc.
Round I: We follow wVw practice and respond by telling the writer:
• what is strong,
• what moved you,
• what pulled you into the text and kept you there, etc.
Be careful not to include responses, in this round, that begin with or include (save for Round II):
• I would like to know more
• I am curious about
• I question
• This reminds me of (either personal stories or references to other writers/writing).
Round II: Now is the time to make inquiries of the writing (see above). This is your time to let writer know:
• what did not work for you as a reader,
• where you were pushed you out of the text and why,
• what left you wanting more and
• questions about consistency, characters and their motivation, suspense/anticipation, imagery/metaphor, paragraphs/stanzas, sentence structure/line breaks, etc.
Round III: Full group discussion – The writer joins discussion. Writer responds to what has been said about manuscript – answers questions, elaborates on text, or raises questions that may not have been addressed.
IV. Return manuscripts - All manuscripts with notes, comments and signature of reader are returned to the writer.