AUTOBIOGRAPHY WRITING WORKSHOP:
Our Typical Working Week
We will organize all our work by breaking up into four-member
Each team will be responsible each week for providing one work-in-progress
to serve as the focus of a workshop.
Each team will also be responsible each week for providing
one reading or set of excerpts that provide useful models of the
following week's topic.
Each person designated to provide a draft for workshop discussion
should bring seven copies of his or her work-in-progress to class
on Monday to be distributed to the editing teams. (S/he should
also keep a copy.)
Each person designated to provide a reading for the following
week should turn in one copy of the model essay on Monday, so
that it can be copied and distributed on Wednesday as part of
the weekend assignment.
This team format will allow for a rotation of responsibilities.
In the course of each month you should expect to provide one
reading and one draft for class discussion. All of your other
writing for the course will be due on Wednesday.
Your portfolio should include all of the following: all of
your drafts and completed works (be sure to label each one with
the working title, the date, and the version number); all of the
essays and excerpts you collected as models; the editing notes
you made in response to the work of other workshop members; the
notes and plans you developed for your work when collaborating
with the editing teams.
- We will focus on a particular topic in writing by discussing
a set of readings.
- Each week we will discuss one or two essays from Meditations
from a Moveable Chair or In Brief assigned by the teacher.
- We will also discuss model passages or essays submitted by
- In our discussions, we will be attempting to define the
characteristics of "good" writing, and imagine the
methods we might use in order to produce good writing of our
own. Both of those are rather large questions, as you can see.
- The class will function as a workshop.
- The sessions will be devoted to consulting rather than critiquing.
- Each session will be lead by the writer, who will open by
describing what s/he would most like to take away from the session
and then go on to describe what s/he is trying to accomplish
in this particular piece. What kinds of issues or questions
is this writer thinking about? What problems is s/he trying
to resolve in this work-in-progress, or what kind of new experiment
is s/he trying to pursue? What parts of the writing is the writer
pleased with at this point in the writing process, and what parts
do not yet seem satisfying?
- The members of the editing team will work by responding first
as readers rather than writers. In other words, they will offer
a narrative of their reading experience, reporting to the author
what they saw, heard, felt, and thought in the process of reading
the piece. Together, the writer and group can identify the parts
of the writing that compel the reader's attention and respect,
and those that have not yet come to life. They should give particular
attention to the issues and questions raised by the author at
the beginning of the editing session. (They should also be sure
to give attention to the topic that is the focus of the week's
work.) Using the information they have assembled, the author
and editors should collaborate on a plan for the next version
of the work in progress.
- In the course of the period each writer who has material
to share will have the opportunity to work with two different
editing groups. That will provide an opportunity for hearing
a variety of responses and suggestions.
- In the final part of the class, each writer will have the
opportunity to share the results of the workshop sessions with
the class as a whole, reporting on the suggestions s/he received
and his/her responses to those comments. The editing teams will
also have the opportunity to comment on what insights they gained
through the editing experience.
- Periodically, we will devote a Wednesday session to responding
as an entire group to the work-in-progress of one or more workshop