Are Workshops Any Good? – Reprinted from the WordCraft newsletter on BackWash.com
If you can find the right Workshop group, it can be invaluable. These are people who care about you. They are people who want you to succeed. They are people who will honestly tell you what you have done well and what needs improvement. They will never attack you personally.
A writer’s group can provide you with the essential feedback that you need. For many years I made the trip from the Outback of Nevada to Carson City to attend Ash Canyon Poets weekly poetry workshop. There were a few rules:
1. Bring a copy of your poem for everyone in the group.
2. Read your poem aloud to the group as they follow along.
3. Comment on the poem.
4. If is your poem, listen to the comments.
5. There are no personal attacks.
6. You have the option to accept or reject the comments given.
7. Everyone has a right to be heard.
There were a few unspoken rules. Everyone is at a different stage of development, and we respect that. The youngest were in their teens and the oldest were in their 80’s. Some were published, and some were just beginning to write.
Ash Canyon Poets is a support group for poets. It is a group who encourages poetry in all venus. It respects all forms of poetry. And it does encourage writers to publish when they are ready. Ash Canyon saw me through the first years of writing. They were there and cheered for me when the first publication came. They are still there encouraging poets in Northern Nevada. That group is one of the few groups of people I sorely miss after having moved to the Midwest.
Today I quit two online groups. One group was supposedly a support group for writers. I never saw one critique but I did see a lot of publishing to the list. The other was a list I had belonged to for a number of years, but recently comments had degenerated to “it sucks” and “the poetry here is monumentally underwhelming.” Neither group was supportive. One was a ego group and the other became a group where, if you posted something that was a “work in progress” you were personally slammed and/or received nothing but negative criticism, if any.
Do I still believe in the value of workshops? Of course I do. The lessons learned at Ash Canyon Poets serve me well even today. And they are a model against which I will judge all other groups.
Will I continue to search for a group? Yes. I value the support and interaction between writers who have a common goal: becoming better writers and helping others do the same.