Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

If You Go To FSG, What Kind Of Writing Workshop Would You Want To See?

I’ll be running something fiction-related on the program at Free Spirit Gathering this June. The folks putting the event’s program together are brainstorming with me to figure out what form this fiction-related thing should take. We’ve been guessing what people would want to attend, and it occurs to me I can just ask.

We all agree there’ll probably be interest in a general discussion of Pagan fiction, covering both creative and publication-related aspects.

But should there also be a Pagan fiction workshop, not in the vague sense of thing-that-fits-into-a-60-minute-block, but in the specific sense of a gathering of active writers with manuscripts, working together to make the manuscripts better right there and then?

If the answer is yes, then two workshop formats come to my mind. I’m hoping more variations or formats come to your minds, and that you comment to tell me about them, because both of the ideas I have could be problematic to implement.

The Old-School Writing Seminar Model

A small group of people, capped at something on the order of 10 participants, pre-register. They commit to emailing one another their manuscripts, capped at something on the order of 15 pages, something like six weeks in advance. They also commit to reading and preparing comments on one another’s manuscripts before gathering. During the festival, this group meets to discuss the manuscripts in, say, two sessions of 90 minutes each with a break or a meal in between.

There are reasons this is the most common model for how to run a writing workshop. That said, I don’t like all those barriers to participation. I want to open it up, preferably in a way that actually works.

The Drop-In Daily Workshop

Every day of the festival, or at least every day I can be there to facilitate, there’s a 60 or 90 minute open workshop. Everybody’s welcome, including people who have no plans to participate directly. People bring their works in progress, preferably with a five-page passage preselected to work on. Somebody other than the author reads the passage out loud, cold. (It can be incredibly informative to hear someone else read your work cold.) After five pages or ten minutes, everyone who has listened to the reading is welcome to comment, with the author asking or answering questions at the very end of his or her time. Then we move on to the next text. People who have come to a previous meeting with a manuscript and not had a turn get first crack at a turn at the next meeting they attend. Shortages or sequences of turns can be sorted out by drawing straws, rolling dice, flipping coins, whatever.

This model is potentially chaotic. I’ve seen it work beautifully with a long-established group that’s been meeting for a decade or so, nearly all of whose members have published at least one piece at the professional level. Whether the model can work at a gathering not focused on writing — a gathering, moreover, of several hundred people, most of whom haven’t made a study of the professional side of writing — is a perilously open question. Widespread interest could be catastrophic, and small showings could be awesome, or vice versa. Anything might happen.

I’m game anyway, unless somebody has a better idea, or talks me into the safe-but-exclusionary Old School Model.

What do you guys think?
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