Time to Workshop


Hi all! Happy Monday! I’m here scrambling a bit trying to finish edits on a story (my first of the semester) which I’ll submit tonight to be workshopped by fourteen classmates. 

Oh, the good old workshop.

Workshopping in an MFA program, I’ve found, is not much different than workshopping in other environments. I attended my first ever workshop almost 7 years ago as part of a continuing ed. class at Emerson, then I moved on to workshopping at my public library with a great group of fellow minded people, and now, here I am, in an MFA program workshopping again.   Mainly the rules are the same: you submit a piece, people read it, offer constructive criticism, and then you leave either motivated or heart broken. No, I’ve learned to take all comments with a grain of salt. I’ve learned to take the comments that resonate with me into consideration (many times they benefit the piece) and then leave the other comments by the wayside.  

What I’ve found most difficult lately: when to know if a piece is right for a workshop. You don’t want the piece to be too new, too fragile, because, as one of my professors said: “It kills the flame of creativity.” But on the flip side, you don’t want to workshop a polished piece because what’s the point then?

I could go on about workshopping for ever.  But I have to run now to make fourteen copies of my story for tonight. Now, I’ll leave you with a book suggestion: The Writing Workshop Note Book, by Alan Ziegler. He was (maybe still is) a teacher at Columbia and he talks all about how to prep for a workshop, how to critique others work, workshop etiquette, and more.  He also talks a lot about writing and the craft.  Actually, something he wrote really makes me think about my new piece.  He says, “Sometimes we write our way into a corner and cant get out; other times we write our way into a stadium and the reader can’t find us.”  I knew something was off with this new story and I think now that I may have written myself into a stadium.  I’ll have to see if my workshop group agrees.

What are your thoughts on workshopping? Hate it? Love it?

Have a great day!


This quote hits home today:

“If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.”- Cynthia Ozick

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0 thoughts on “Time to Workshop

  1. Kim

    An interesting concept for sure!! I think this might be a great activity to try out with my students (since they are young they will need lots of reminders to be gentle with one another!!)!! I also wonder….what does it feel like for you to "workshop" another person’s piece of work??

  2. MFAwannabe

    Workshopping can be hard, but with the right mix of people and a good leader, I’ve seen a lot of improvements in my pieces over the years. It requires a delicate balance, I think.