MFA Nugget: Lessons From My Failed Residency Workshop

MONTPELIER, VERMONT — This post is an attempt to find some positives in an otherwise not-so-pleasant workshop experience here at my MFA in Writing residency with the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here is a list of things I promise not to do next summer, at my final residency:

  1. I will remember to say something nice first. I’ve taken for granted the rule that you always start by saying something you liked. We had all done that for the first 11 workshop students over the course of this residency. I was the very last one to be workshopped, and for some reason that rule went out the window when I was up. I thought it might have been my imagination, but a fellow student made note of that oddity later in the day. Perhaps someone didn’t like my post about workshop stereotypes.
  2. I will not compare the work unfavorably to other works by the writer. The very first student to critique me spent her entire time wondering why this memoir selection couldn’t have been more like the standalone essay she had critiqued in a previous workshop. I thought of Woody Allen in Stardust Memories, when space aliens tell him, “We like your movies, especially the earlier funny ones.”
  3. I will remember that if the work submitted is part of a larger work, I shouldn’t expect every question to be answered in the submission. I think that one is self-explanatory.
  4. I will remember that I may not be a target reader for the writer. One of the students said my work wasn’t literature, but instead was just journalism, and boring journalism at that. Now it turns out that she completely missed some sign posts I had laid out that would have kept her from reaching that conclusion. A learning experience for me, I need to make those markers clearer. But at the post-graduation ceremony, even after knowing it is not the type of work she thought it was, she still said she wouldn’t read it. But it dawned on me that while I think she is a great writer, I wouldn’t read her work if published either; the story isn’t compelling to me, and I couldn’t handle that voice for that many pages. So I need to remember what Larry Sutin said about writing for one reader–yourself.
  5. I will ensure that any reference I make to my own struggle is constructive. The same writer in #4 above provided an IT’S-ALL-ABOUT-ME suggestion both in workshop and at the reception. After hearing that I had completed a draft of this memoir, she said she had written 350 pages of a memoir, and was brave enough to throw it out and start over again. She said I should be as brave as her, and do the same thing.
  6. I will make myself available for follow-up questions. I was the only thing between my fellow students and the end of residency. Making it worse was that everyone was so busy debating what didn’t work with my submission that we ran a full sixty minutes, leaving me no time to respond. One of the instructors said I should have my time anyway, but we could see people streaming out of the other workshops. I talked for a minute or two, then shut up. Everybody jumped up, gave each other hugs, thanked each other for a magical experience, and took off. I wish one of them had said, “You know, you don’t get to find me in the dining room tomorrow to ask me what I meant by this-or-that, so feel free to call or email me.”

Now I am probably suggesting the experience was worse than it really was. Both instructors understood what I was doing, and appeared to appreciate it. One of the students, himself a teacher, pushed back hard against the two students whose comments triggered the above declarations. But because I don’t want my memoir to be read only by teachers schooled in literary writing, I need to provide clearer sign posts for the reader. I can do that, pretty easily.

Here's what College Hall will look like this summer, when i return for my final residency. I will welcome the absence of snow and the abundance of sun.

Here’s what College Hall will look like this summer, when I return for my final residency. I will welcome long, sunny days.

I must also admit that I was pretty tired, and a little fed up with the snow and the cold and the clouds. I’m sure I wasn’t in the best place mentally to be workshopped. Winter in Vermont is not my thing, I am learning.

I am also learning that workshops are a crap shoot. I was also overwhelmed after being workshopped at my first residency, but in a good way. I had never before experienced sitting quietly while others talked about nothing but my writing. A consensus formed around my piece in that workshop, and I have carried their feedback with me throughout this program.

My second residency led, as I noted in a separate post, resulted in a published, award-winning work, so no complaints there. Last semester’s residency was disappointing, but not in a crushing way. I submitted a piece that I had revised based on my instructor’s feedback. For fifty-five minutes in workshop, everyone said they loved the piece. That felt good, but it provided little value as a writer hungry to learn. I blogged on that workshop experience as well.

One thing I’ve learned is that I need thicker skin if I’m going to stay on the art-committed path. It’s possible that people held back less with me because it was the end of the residency, and everyone felt sufficient comfort level to be direct. It’s also possible, as one friend told me, that they figured I could handle it because the writing actually was pretty strong. (Nice of her to say that!) But no matter how great one becomes at something, there is always a critic. Perhaps that can be the primary lesson I take with me from this experience.

ADDENDUM, 1/8/13, 3:45 pm ET: I’d like to extend my gratitude to the commenters below who gave me the encouragement I needed. In his lecture at residency, Kurt Caswell talked about the supportive VCFA community, but I have it here at The Artist’s Road as well. You should know I’m in a better place right now; literally. I’m at home, awaiting my family, invigorated after a delightful 7-hour drive with no traffic and constant sunlight (except for a brief stint in the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, during which I rocked out to Muse’s “Uprising“). I really do love to drive. And it’s at least 30 degrees warmer here in northern Virginia than it was my entire time in Vermont, but more important to me is that big ball of light in the sky that is once again visible. Thanks, everyone!

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

41 Responses to “MFA Nugget: Lessons From My Failed Residency Workshop”

  1. I’ve been following your residency experience closely ever since you first arrived, because it reminds me so much of my fourth. I was distinctly irked at that residency. Tired of the routine, irritated by the process. I just wanted to “get going,” but I had no idea what that meant. I wonder if it’s a natural part of the rhythm of the thing, that since the last one will be full of the official acts of leaving the nest, the fourth one is somehow the one where we naturally start to separate. It felt like I was a teenager, ready to be on my own and still somehow never really ready.

    I’m sorry about your workshop, too.

    • Hi Hope,

      You’ve really got me thinking there. This was the first residency where I knew almost all of the graduating students; a part of me felt weird that I wasn’t graduating. And of course we’re meeting with our advisors about what our graduating lectures will look like, so I’m looking at student lectures in a different light. It is like that hurry-up time of high school; my 17-year-old daughter has already been accepted at her college of choice (she’s a HS senior) and wants to start yesterday. I was the same way. This is a really helpful perspective, thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing your raw feelings about this experience. It will help others realize, as you have, that they are stronger than they think. I spend at least 50% of my working life with teams who are preparing presentations that have a lot of money riding on them. Since everyone is afraid of losing, they strive for consensus or agreement on the content. I’ve realized that getting everyone to agree means that most ideas that fall outside the norm get tossed. There are no provacateurs or contrarians in groups. Yet what is memorable, whether it’s in arts or any other part of life? The outliers, the ones whose work provokes and does deviate from the norm. You might reconsider that your residency was a success!

    • “I’ve realized that getting everyone to agree means that most ideas that fall outside the norm get tossed.” Thank you for this comment, and this sentence in particular. I submitted a new opening to my memoir, and the opening sentence is a punch in the mouth. It threw some people off, but others really thought it was powerful. Has anything resulting from consensus ever been deemed powerful? I suspect more than a few people in workshop will remember that opening sentence, whether they liked it or not, and that is something. Thanks.

  3. Patrick, your blogging about the experience is invaluable – for us, your audience, and for you, to get it out and move along. If you can write on your artist/interview project as compellingly as you do this, you’re in good shape.

    I hope you don’t take away any one individual’s baggage-laden criticism and carping… take what makes sense to you. It’s your work, it’s not a committee project, and you may have reached your fill-to-this-line point with others’ input and sometimes guidance. *You* are the only one who knows the way it should be – trust that instinct, stay warm, and keep writing!

    Cheers,
    Martha

    • Martha, you’ve reiterated Susan’s message above, with encouragement about my own writing that I truly appreciate. I will trust my instinct, I will keep writing, and I’m definitely warmer now that I’m back home!

  4. When Julia Cameron and I were running The Artist’s Way Creativity Camps in Taos, twenty camps in eight years, many of the people who came told workshop stories. They told the drill, 1) send rough work to be read by strangers (you have to read strangers’ work too); 2) wait for days to have your writing workshopped, a verb no less; 3) finally you sit in a circle and listen to “very important literary writers” showcase their smarts often at your expense.

    While this system succeeds for some, it shuts many down, like the ones who came to the Creativity Camp. I suspect jealousy was one of the reasons you were slammed so hard. Unlike most students in the Vermont College MFA program, which is competitive as hell, you’re already have what they want. You’re a professional writer, teacher, and prize winning blogger with an increasing fan base.

    You don’t need and MFA to make your mark. You want it because it will add value to your growing reputation Couple that with you public stand on your art committed life and it’s no wonder small bulls charge your large flag.

    I remember the vibe of the workshops I attended when I was at Vermont College, but I don’t remember what was said or what I said. Wouldn’t that time be better spent, by offering actual writing workshops from the faculty of seasoned writers? That won’t happen, the workshop culture is too established, too competitive, too important.

    Most of the writers in the MFA program have high hopes they will become well known literary figures or, at least, seriously published. Workshops don’t help this cause. Vermont College could take the lead and change this. Will it happen? My money says Vermont College won’t risk it.

    • Wow, James, this is a really thought-provoking, and encouraging, comment. First of all, I’m flattered you’ve been reading these posts and I feel a connection to you beyond a shared alma mater. As to your jealousy thesis, a friend raised that possibility last night and I dismissed it. But I will take it under consideration. Every day I read something I wish I had written, or could have written, and I’m envious as hell. But I can appreciate it without it threatening me; I’m not writing that, I’m writing what I’m writing. But as I reflect on it, I didn’t always have that self-confidence, and perhaps not everyone in an MFA workshop does either. I’ll have to reflect on that.

  5. Wow, sounds like a pretty hurtful experience, Patrick. I have never taken part in a workshop such as you are describing, but I have participated in many peer-critiquing sessions for various types of projects including writing projects, and find that they can be amazingly productive or amazingly damaging. (Sometimes the worst ones are the ones that turn into mutual admiration societies to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings!)

    Finding the balance between confidence in what I have produced and openness to making it even better is key. I have learned that while I can’t always control the actions of the members of the group, there are a few things I can do that help keep me and my project from being destroyed.

    First, I need to know what kind of criticism I am after and I need to be able to express that to the group. In your residency expressing this overtly this might not be an option, I realize, but thinking this through helps me to narrow my focus on the criticism that meets my requirements and to filter out that which doesn’t (including the emotional side of it) without wasting time and energy.

    Second, I need to be able to deal with peers who fail to follow that guidance and accept that all criticism is not created equal. Being a good critic is not something that everyone is naturally able to do. I often have to remind myself that just because someone voiced a criticism doesn’t mean it is now some universal truth that requires action. It’s interesting that the verb collocation often seen with criticism is “offer.” Criticism is offered, and it can be accepted or rejected.

    …and, just to be a little snarky, as my mother taught me when I was growing up, “Consider the source!”😉

    • “First, I need to know what kind of criticism I am after and I need to be able to express that to the group.” You know, on the first day of residency, the instructors invited people to do just that, and the two people up that day did not. It kind of went away after that. As I think about it, I’m not sure what I would have asked for, but I’m positive that whatever I would have gotten back would have been more useful had I provided some guidance.

      Love your “offer” feedback there, and I will accept without comment your mother’s advice!🙂

  6. Ouch, Patrick. I’m sorry you had such a, shall we say, non-constructive experience. It’s good that you could write about it here and turn it into a helpful learning tool for the rest of us. I’ve never had something so negative happen in a workshop setting (and I’ve participated in several now), so I’m wary and working on my thick skin for the one I’ll attend in a couple of weeks. I need to steel myself to listen, no matter what, but filter what’s helpful from the dross. I’m in the process right now of writing critiques for each manuscript to be discussed in workshop. I hate the word “critique”; I prefer “constructive feedback,” which for me means identifying what the writer does well (first) and then offering a few concrete suggestions I feel might make the work stronger. The mantra for all workshop participants should be “honor the writer,” which doesn’t mean simply patting her/him on the back and gushing over the work. It simply means approaching the work with respect. James’s comment was also interesting and helpful. I’ll make a copy of this blog piece and take it with me when I go to Florida next week–just in case I need it! Best to you. Go home, get warm, and when you’ve taken some time, separate what’s helpful from what’s not and get back to your project.

    • Gerry, best of luck to you. I think the other writers are lucky to have you as a workshop participant, I am convinced you will “honor” the writers while providing “constructive feedback.” Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. One other quick note: you didn’t fail; it sounds like the process failed you.

  8. I’m impressed that you are able to take a difficult experience and turn it into a learning tool. I’d be blocked for weeks afterwards. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience.

    • Shary, you did not see the first draft of this post. It was ugly. You know how they say to write out your feelings in a letter and then throw it away? That’s essentially what I did. I wrote the first draft yesterday after workshop (and after a beer), and scheduled it to go live this morning. Then, after graduation, I drove to Connecticut, found a motel (never stay at the Quality Inn off of I-84, exit 25, outside of Waterbury, what a dump), reviewed the post, and began a pretty serious rewrite. The only surviving language is the part about past residencies with links. The original one was not “what can I take away from this,” let me tell you!

  9. Patrick, I have been following your residency posts which have helped me feel like I am still a part of the VCFA residency community, even though I am not present on campus. I am most impressed that you find the time to articulate, so deftly, your experiences: to tie them into former ponderings, and to set them forth as a platform for where you’re headed next. And the writing is good, too. (Wink)
    One comment I wanted to make regarding the “critique” of your work has to do with the concept of tone. I find that “words” are one thing, and choice of words, but that stance, tone, demeanor, facial expressions, etc.. all compile to affect the impact of the listener’s experience as well. For me, I find that two people can make the exact same point about a piece, but the way each said it made all of the difference in how I was able to take it and transform the work.
    Writers are not merely people with feelings. We are people with great passion. And we all have our formative experiences, past hurts, yadda yadda, embedded in our psyche. I’m talking about both the reader and the writer in this case.
    How I feel about the leftovers of someone’s critique has a strong bearing on how effective their critical feedback is for learning, which is what the workshop experience is for!
    So, professionalism? Who ever said that workshops rules were made to be broken? And yet they often are, time and again. And, in that, I feel, something great is lost. We have missed the boat and instead have to stand in line for the next one.
    I am not suggesting that people not speak their truth, say what needs to be said, look hard at the work, and I know you are not saying that either.
    So how about this: “What you say is worth a dime. How you say it is worth a dollar. Why you say it, is worth a fortune.”
    (And we all know how many dollars we pay to sit in those workshops!)
    Don’t we all want to help one other become better writer???
    Write on!

    • Jodi, thank you for the comment, so great to hear from another VCFA alum. I’m flattered you’ve found these posts of value and they’ve helped connect you to the program again.

      Left out of this post was another bullet I was going to include, “Don’t tell people it’s not personal.” I had someone say that, and it rubbed me the wrong way. I would believe her had she said “I didn’t mean it to be personal,” but isn’t everything to do with our writing personal to us? As you note, we are people of great passion. I’m mad at myself for allowing the criticism to affect me personally, but I also take to heart your comment about what is said and how it is said.

      For what it’s worth, the first participant in this workshop has read this post, and has apologized for not beginning with something positive. She said she feels her launching in on the negative set a bad tone for the rest of the workshoppers. She’s probably right. She also said that she jumped to what I would call the negative and she would call the constructive because she likes me and she likes my writing, and she was disappointed that she didn’t get what she had gotten from me before. So that is helpful feedback. Had I not been the last person up, I’m sure I could have found her in Dewey Dining Hall and it all would have been a lot less messy.

    • Jodi… I’m intrigued by your quote re “dime, dollar, and fortune…” I’ve already recycled it, and would like to play with it some more. Can you tell me where the quote originates? Google hasn’t helped.

      • It originated from my head, I think, or maybe my grandmother said something like it. Do you think I could get rich from the bumper sticker, since none of my other writing has paid off?

        • Jodi… well, I’m intrigued, of course, by the “WHY” and how it gets top billing in your philosophy. I am inclined to believe it without looking at it too deeply. But I feel myself already probing it for why it’s true. I gave a short talk yesterday, and I found some solid ground beneath my wishywashy premise by reminding myself WHY I was speaking about my subject. But more importantly, it’s the WHY more than the WHAT and the HOW that makes a piece of fiction significant. The WHY is like the “secret centre” that Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk speaks of. You could say it’s “what the story is really about”. Which is often hidden. Which perhaps marks “literature” for what it is. The WHY, which is worth a fortune, also lies at the heart of my own “story structure” theory. I’m not going to use Patrick’s website for my personal advantage, but Mr. Google will lead you to me. Oh, and yes, do the bumper sticker. I’ll buy a dozen! Thanks, Jodi.

          • In response to the why, I pretty much agreed with everything you said. I was referring mostly to the why behind the critical feedback, as in, why did the woman need to say what she said to Patrick about his work, but the why applies to the writing even better. At least, right now, I am finding your post about the fiction very interesting. This is exactly the kind of stuff I like to talk about in workshop. Basically, the why of anything has to do with intention, no? Jump over to your blog where I tell you how I bought your book on my Kindle. Thanks, Patrick!

  10. Patrick… I sensed that this residency was going to be awkward. Your early comments suggested such. And now this “failed workshop”. I know the feeling. I also know that this kind of experience can prove advantageous in the long run, because it’s going to make you tougher. And more compassionate. Strangely, it’s all good, and I think you know that. You don’t need me to say nice things, but I will anyway. Your sharing this experience has come from your commitment to this crazy writing life… and as Jodi says, that’s worth a fortune. You may feel out of sync at the moment, but let me say finally that this series of posts has uniquely stood out as relentlessly real communication. And I’m looking forward to your further exploits. Warm regards.

    • PJ, I believe we manifest our own realities, and it is possible I set up the possibility of trouble with the expectations I brought. I know the post you’re talking about, where I shared my concerns about living off campus and being tethered to my work phone. I will say, though, that on the whole it was a positive residency. I chart the four residencies as great, okay, great, okay. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the great ones took place in Vermont summers and the okay ones took place in Vermont winters.

      Thank you for this: “… this series of posts has uniquely stood out as relentlessly real communication.”

  11. Bully for you for sharing that so honestly and clearly. I’ve seen writers slammed hard during a workshop and after they slink away you never hear from them again. It’s wonderful that you’ve articulated the experience so well and that you are standing up for yourself and your process. I hope that the encouraging comments here go a long way to heal your creative spirit.

  12. Patrick, writing about your experience is valuable not only for your readers, here, but for you. Indeed, you could have slunk away … but here you are! I resonate with Mr. Nave’s comment above. I’ve seen so many creatives shut down in the wake of a poorly “held” critique session (or series of them). It sounds like your instructors tried to hold the space … but when a student goes last, while in the final minutes of a residency? That’s a time when any paid instructor should be “the heavy” and require from other students the same time, care, and respect you gave them. I’ve seen so many things get in the way of a truly informed, constructive critique — ego being one, meandering off into one’s own “stuff” being another, and so on. Yes, part of the art gig is developing a thick skin when it comes to critique … but there’s a difference between constructive critique and destructive critique … as you well know.

    • I have to give props to both of the instructors, who didn’t speak until after all of the students had (which was the norm) but then brought it back to craft and away from more broad statements about “what I didn’t like.” They said what worked and what didn’t, and it was all helpful. And one of the instructors–who has the advantage of knowing my writing because he was a former instructor of mine–spent a great deal of time explaining what I was doing, noting that some students had missed it.

      I was worried about being the last person workshopped because I expected everyone to be hung over and mentally checked out; I’ve seen that happen at my last three residencies. I just didn’t expect this. I wish they didn’t do this schedule, but I think VCFA wants to ensure all of the students stick around that final day so they can attend graduation,and you don’t get credit for the residency unless you attend each and every workshop (you have a choice of lectures, so you could easily blow off any last-day lecture). Every semester in my evaluation I say they shouldn’t have workshop on the last day, but every semester it’s back.

  13. OMG, talk about blade in the gut; if you get tougher, will you lose the sensitivity a writer must have; but i think we do get tougher, or more insulated; sounded horrible, and i felt very protective of you; the arrogance of others; ughs, it’s all a process, and sometimes there’s an underbelly shows up when you least expect it. high regards and thanks for sharing

  14. Hey Patrick, as one of the participants in the workshop you discuss (and the one you mention who really understood where you were going in your piece), this was really fascinating to read. For what it’s worth, my take on that workshop session is that everyone really liked the strong writing in your piece, but some folks may have been expecting a traditional memoir structure. My thought–as I expressed in the workshop–is that you should absolutely retain your structure. I loved the interviews and thought they created a cool interplay with the personal information you reveal and reflect upon.
    I also think there’s something to the point you mention about going last at the residency (perhaps folks are tired, etc.). I’d mentioned this to you, but at my last residency I also was workshopped last, and it was a bloodbath. Not just from the students, but one of the instructors criticized my lack of a “moral vision.” It really stung at the time, but I realized that not everyone is going to appreciate my dark fiction (that particular piece was about a murderous heroin addict), and especially folks who traditionally read and write domestic dramas. I didn’t change a word of my story, and it was published last year in a print journal, and the publisher even flew me out to Chicago to give a reading at the launch party. So, keep the faith. Cheers, Dave

    • Kudos to Dave for refocusing on the positive aspects of this workshop and sharing the “bloodbath” experience.

      …and by the way, what the heck is a “moral vision”? Give me a break! If that is the only thing they can come up with in the form of constructive criticism, it’s no wonder you didn’t change a word! (Sounds like you took my mother’s advice😉 ) Glad to hear it got published. I hope you got some useful feedback from the real-world audience.

      • I wondered, too, about the moral vision comment. I wonder if Dave would be willing to say more about what that instructor meant. I once had a instructor question a piece I wrote about a woman who shared her feelings of attraction to a married man (normal domestic drama). She said, “Why would a woman want someone else’s husband?” When I asked another instructor about the comment, he said,”I know a lot of people who would!” So I laugh about that and think about moral vision. I also wonder what is normal domestic drama.

        • Seems strange how many people, including writers and instructors, can’t seem to separate the author from the character, or the ideal from the real. Real moral dilemmas play out every minute in everyday life. In real life, not every story, and in fact perhaps only the smallest minority, end HEA.

          Tolstoy wrote “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (in Anna Karenina, which perhaps would be a good book for your instructor to read to understand the emotions behind marital infidelity and attraction). As writers, frankly, we are not likely to write much about the happy family, because it becomes uninteresting very quickly unless held up as a mirror to reflect the unhappy one. It is how people cope with not living up to the ideal that makes our stories (both fiction and non-fiction) interesting. How people adjust their moral compasses in an attempt to move from the unhappy to the happy is the plotline that never fails.

          I would also note that this blog entry where Patrick has so excruciatingly honestly bared his unhappiness with the outcome to his workshop has inspired more discussion that some of his “happier” posts too. Sharing and overcoming hardship attracts more comment even than sharing and rejoicing in success. Success is like the happy family. We all get it, we all want it. But hardship is more visceral, and we all fear that we may fail to triumph over it.

          • You’re right, Michele, about separating the author from the narrator. I was writing a memoir, but Dave writes fiction, so you can’t even excuse the criticism as having something to do with the author directly.

            You wrote: “I would also note that this blog entry where Patrick has so excruciatingly honestly bared his unhappiness with the outcome to his workshop has inspired more discussion that some of his “happier” posts too.” Let me also say that it is the runaway hit in terms of, well, hits. My entire time in the program, I keep being told in my writing to share more of myself. This is an example of some merit to that, at least in terms of attracting readers! I will decide this is a good thing, and not decide that it is a form of rubber-necking, like slowing down along a freeway accident.🙂

        • Jodi, this is a rare case where LOL would be accurate. Wow!

    • Hi Dave,

      Great to have you here, and your perspective. See, if I hadn’t been workshopped right before the end of residency, we could have had this conversation on campus! I think your analysis of the feedback is right. I did learn some things; for example, I hadn’t realized the two chapters were structured the same (one informal interview, one formal); that is not a repeated pattern, but I don’t want to seem predictable, so I’m going to change that up in one of them. And I will be shortening the first interview, based on feedback, which fits with my own gut about that section. That’s one of the benefits of workshop, right, you submit things you’re not sure about and find out if others think the same thing?

      I’m with the others on the instructor feedback. That’s a bit stunning, really, and you really got the last laugh. I did have an instructor once take issue in his written critique of a workshop piece I did where I talked about religion (he had a different opinion) but he didn’t say anything about it in workshop and the rest of his feedback was restricted to craft, so I took no offense.

      Glad to have met you, Dave!

  15. Hi Patrick,

    I’m sorry you had a lousy workshop experience. That just stinks.

    But I think, too, that your post brings up something that’s been on my mind while I’m at my first MFA residency at Queens– how difficult it is to workshop a small section of a longer work. I just had my first workshop for the first few chapters of my novel. It went really well. But I imagine future workshops will be a little awkward, because the readers wouldn’t have had the benefit of earlier pages. I wonder, generally speaking, how workshops could be altered to make them more conducive to larger works.

    Thank you for writing this post. Everyone has a bad workshop sometime. I suppose if nothing else, it does give us thicker skin.

    Take care.

    • Ah, so you’re at the residency now. Fantastic!

      My most successful workshop was my second, where I had a standalone piece. The other three have been memoir excerpts, and I’ve had mixed results. I don’t think there’s an easy answer, really. I find that even in my local writer’s group, where they have the benefit of having read previous pages, those pages aren’t front of mind for them, so it’s not much of an improvement over a VCFA workshop in that respect.

      I hope you’re having a great time! I’m really happy for you!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. MFA Nugget: An Entire Residency in One Tasty Bite | The Artist's Road - January 10, 2013

    […] attempt to find the positive in a negative workshopping […]

  2. You Never Know to Whom You’re Speaking :: PJ Reece - January 11, 2013

    […] Patrick reported his crucifixion in a post called, “Lessons From My Failed Residency Workshop”. […]

Chime in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: