Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some thougts on Writing Workshops

I've recently had the pleasure of teaching writing workshops at libraries on both the east and west coast.  And I wanted to share a few things that, for me, make the writing workshops lively and satisfying.

  • Set a goal for your writing workshop. I say something like, "Our goal for today will be to explore where our stories come from and how we give them depth and rich details."
  • Make it clear that this is a safe space for sharing. Especially if this is the first time you've taught a given group, point out that today is about writing and sharing--it's not a critique group--and the feedback you offer will be about the things in the story that are working. STICK TO THE POSITIVE--don't shut down beginning writers!
  • Always do the writing assignments with the group.  I think this shows respect for the folks who have come to learn from you and your own dedication to your craft.
  • READ OUT LOUD. I think that teens are often asked to write about books but rarely shown how they can USE examples from novels to hone their own craft.  I use excerpts from THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly, and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, among other texts, to model how NAMES/WORD CHOICE, DESCRIPTION/SETTING, and LITERARY FORMS can be explored to enhance your story. (Plus, I love hearing good work read aloud and I think lots of other people do, too!)
  • LISTEN.  Encourage writers to share and, when they do, stay focused, take a few notes, and give clear feedback on what is working. The MOST IMPORTANT goal for a writing instructor (I think) is to send students away wanting to write MORE.

We're all in a safe space here!

You're here writing--not home watching television.
Congratulations -- you're already a success tonight!

Ask folks to put down pencils when they're finished
so you know when the work is done.

Who says boys don't read--and write?!

If adults want to join the writing group,
I say YES - but they have to really JOIN
the improv and sharing time, too!

Leave time to chat, sign books, and generally hang out after the workshop.
And make sure to continue to encourage young writers
even though your "teacher hat" is off!

1 comment:

Dawn Simon said...

Great tips, Stasia! What a wonderful experience for you and the kids in your workshops! I never knew any authors growing up, but I would have loved an opportunity like that.

Have a great week!