WHAT HAPPENS IN A WORKSHOP?
Note: Workshops are adaptable to any size group and length of time. We have conducted workshops with almost 100 participants and as few as ten, lasting anywhere from an afternoon to five full days.
The workshops begin with a period of writing. A short phrase is offered by Fred or Marta, something that has come out of recent writing in the group or a phrase that seems relevant to the group at that moment.
This phrase is offered as a way of bringing a memory or specific scene to mind. Sometimes what comes to mind seems utterly unrelated. No matter. We encourage the writer to begin there. As in dreams, the material that can trigger writing is unpredictable. And, as in a dream, it comes from mysterious places and may at first seem trivial when in fact it is huge.
After a generous period of writing, participants reassemble and are invited one by one to read their work out loud. There is no pressure to read. In fact, it is best to write with no commitment to going public — although most quickly feel comfortable doing so in this supportive, confidential context.
Those who do read find it an invaluable component of the workshop, almost as important as the writing itself. Writers gain an important perspective on their work impossible to have while actually creating it. In addition, they receive invaluable, respectful response from the group.
The response is given in terms of what details mattered most to the listeners, what moments were particularly compelling, which events or characters came through most powerfully. This response propels the writer further into the writer’s work.
Although the writing that appears in workshops is invariably deep and personal, participants maintain a disciplined focus on the writing itself. The workshops are thus saved from becoming idle exchanges of personal stories or quasi-therapy.
Fred and Marta are almost always full participants in the workshops as well as facilitators. They do not stand apart as “teachers.” They write and read their material, using the workshops like everyone else to fuel their own writing.