Fall'17 Workshop Series

Back-to-school clothing and supplies are arriving in stores. Time to begin planning your Fall schedule. Make writing with wVw a must-do item on your list of promises to keep. wVw provides a safe and respectful space where you can claim writing as your art. Register at Wallkill Valley Writers.

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Manuscript Discussion: Reading & Responding

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 writers are 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 an editor. A critic is an evaluator and judge whose role is to place value on texts, to serve as a guide to readers. Nor are we editors 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.

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

Suggestions:
Help the writer to re-see the text (manuscript). Make suggestions to the writer that would strengthen your reading experience of the text (manuscript).

This is not an editorial reading. 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 do edits.

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.
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Manuscript Discussion in Workshop

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 the words in the voice of the writer.  Listen to both readers carefully -- note where a reader 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:
•    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,
•    what you pushed you out of the text,
•    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.
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Responding to Writing in Workshop

All writing is treated as fiction.

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.

Writing that has newly come from the pen of a writer should be listened to with care. New writing is as fragile and raw as a newborn and should be treated as respectfully, as tenderly.

•    Do not make overt or subtle suggestions for change.
•    Do not tell one’s own story, ie. This reminds me when I…
•    Do not question
•    Do not express doubt or disbelief
•    Do not describe writing as derivative, overly familiar or clichéd
•    Do not express dislike or disinterest in narrator, voice or character
•    Do not respond with like unless you point to particular words, phrases, actions, etc.

What is helpful is to listen to the writer, then give back what you remember, what stays with you. Each writer is finding his or her way to voice. It cannot be coerced, and it cannot be given form or shape by anyone else.
                    --adapted from Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and with Others

Suggestions for responding:
  • I remember
  • 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:
Words
Phrases
Sounds
Sentences
Images
Metaphor

Respond as reader, not a critic:
I understand
I get
I see
I hear
I feel




 
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wVw 2015 Anthology

wVwAnthology2015FrontCover2"These works expose the dark undersides of life with vibrant, strong imagery, a range of memorable personae and voices, and compelling visions. There is the speaker in Tim Brennan’s “The Urge,” who mediates on the costs of war and revolution for the young, and in her creative nonfiction work, filled with raw, precise detail (that gives us a time and place), Colleen Geraghty creates a child narrator, hyperaware and sensitive, who views the “slime,” “the losing time,” the waste, violence, and abuse of women in her Irish childhood. And yet the works affirm the possibility of hope and do so eloquently.  Perhaps Kate Hymes’s injunction in her poem, “Believe, “ best embodies the subtle strengths of this anthology:  “Hold within you the knowing/ Wounds are possibilities/ Made manifest at the edge-tip/ Of scratchy pens and sharpened tongues.” 
--Jan Zlotnik Schmidt, Distinguished Professor of English, SUNY New Paltz

Writers:
Bythema Bagley
Claudia Battaglia
Tim Brennan
Gloria Caviglia
Susan Chute
Meg Dunne
Barbara Edelman
Kim Ellis
Jeanne-Marie Fleming
Allison Friedman
Colleen Geraghty
Kate Hymes
Barbara Martin
Linda Melick
Barry Menuez
RoseMarie Navarra
Jennifer "Jen" Roy

Purchase copies at Amazon.com, or directly from wVw for $8.00 (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
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