If you’re a creative writer or reader of prose, poetry, screen or stage plays, come check out the DePaul Writer’s Guild led by UCWbL tutor and creative writer Sarah Hughes.
The workshop group held its first meeting this past Wednesday, January 25. The group meets at 7:30 pm weekly in the Arts and Letters Building. Writers are invited to bring copies of their piece for a cold reading and some constructive feedback; one can also just show up and engage in a conversation of peer work.
During our discussion on Wednesday, I noticed significant differences between the laid back environment of ‘the guild’ and the more structured aspects of writing workshop classes. As an creative writing major and screenwriting minor, I have taken several workshop-based classes. The majority of these classes have exercised what I will refer to as the ‘silent rule,’ which requires the writer to remain silent while the other students and professor discuss the piece and provide comments.
This approach certainly has its advantages, allowing the professor to keep the conversation focused, while also eliminating the potential for a writer to become defensive to peer feedback. During these types of workshops, the writer is expected to jot down each comment regardless of its content or overall validity. In my experience, workshops that exercise this method elicit a wider range of responses from peers, though it should be noted that the volume and content of comments is likely influenced by the professor’s guidance of the conversation. The writer is usually given a chance to ask questions at the end of the workshop, but there is usually not enough time to start a balanced discussion.
Writer’s Guild is quite different. During our workshop sessions, the writer is encouraged to engage in a conversation with his or her peers. A peer can pose a question for the writer or ask for his or her opinion on a piece of feedback. This aspect of the group encourages the writer to take part in a friendly discourse about the work. Last week’s discussion resulted in some conflicting opinions among peers and writers, but all members respected eachother’s viewpoints. The only disadvantage I see with this informal approach is related to time management. Some works inevitably provoke more immediate discussion than others and with such a casual workshop environment, it is easy for peers and writers to get wrapped up in a discussion without paying close attention to the allotted time for each piece.
Both approaches to the workshop have the potential to greatly benefit the writer, as they draw the work out into the open, albeit in different ways. I will say that I have received insightful feedback in both contexts. The success of both approaches ultimately depends on the writer’s degree of engagement and his or her ability to think critically about the piece.