By: J.O. Coplien
Published in: PLoPD4
Category: Writers' Workshops
Summary: The structures and practices that support writers' workshops, a continuation of [Coplien97]
Pattern writers need a review process. An open review forum supports the most effective communication between authors and reviewers, supporting dialogue yet limiting vulnerability and bad feelings. Use Safe Setting and Community of Trust
You're using Open Review. Provide a safe setting where the author can receive useful feedback directed at the work, not the author, with the goal of preserving the dignity of the author. Use Workshop Comprises Authors, Authors' Circle, Moderator Guides the Workshop, Positive Feedback First, Suggestions for Improvement, Positive Closure, and Thank the Author
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. To balance the assessment of content and expression in the work, treat the authors as experts in their domain. Review the form more than content.
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. To deal with feelings of mistrust for outsiders who aren't stakeholders, let the workshop members be other authors who are interested in the material, who have a stake in the material, or who will contribute to improving the work.
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. Organize writers' workshops by areas of interest that tie together the works of the authors.
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. To keep things moving and be sure the workshop guidelines are followed, each session should be led by an experienced moderator who guides the discussion.
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. To facilitate paths of communication, have reviewers sit in a circle that includes the author and moderator. Don't use tables. All participants should present an equally vulnerable and supportive face to the circle as a whole.
You're using Sitting in a Circle. Have two circles, the inner for authors and the moderator, the outer for non-authors.
You're using Open Review and Safe Setting. To avoid under- or over-preparation, reviewers should read the pattern just before reviewing it.
You're using Reading Just Before Reviewing. How can the group get to know the author a little? The author stands and reads a selection of the material, verbatim, to the reviewers.
You're using Author Reads Selection. To keep the author engaged yet at an objective distance, move the author out of the circle to become a fly on the wall. When you're using Volunteer Summarizes the Work, Positive Feedback First, and Suggestions for Improvement, refer to the author as "the author." No one should make eye contact with the author.
You're using Sitting in a Circle and Fly on the Wall. How can the group communicate their understanding of the work to the author? The moderator asks a volunteer to summarize the work in his or her own words.
You've applied Volunteer Summarizes the Work. How can the reviewers provide feedback so that it has the best chance of being successful? Start by accentuating the positives--what the author should leave unchanged in future iterations of the work.
You've applied Positive Feedback First. To point out problems without attacking the author, provide constructive feedback to the author. Offer no criticism unless it is accompanied by a well-considered, actionable suggestion for improvement.
You've applied Positive Closure and the feedback has ended. How can the author have a chance to speak without starting a debate? The moderator calls for the author to ask for clarification on any reviewer comments. The author will not defend his work or clarify his position.
You've applied Suggestions for Improvement. To leave the author with a positive feeling at the end of the feedback, the moderator asks a single reviewer to recap an important positive aspect of the work or describe some part of the work that makes it shine. Make the author feel special.
You've applied Author Asks for Clarification, and the workshop has finished. End the workshop by thanking the author. Typically the author remains seated while all reviewers stand and applaud. Reviewers should make eye contact with the author.
After one writers' workshop has been completed, to get ready for the next one, the moderator should ask for a volunteer to tell an irrelevant story, joke, or any other bit of unrelated topic matter.
At the end of a writers' workshop, how should the author incorporate feedback into the work? The author is not bound to the verbatim advice from the reviewers. All changes to be made are at the author's discretion.