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I was trained to run workshops by Doug Anderson (he's a terrific poet - see "The Moon Reflected Fire"- as well as memoirist and fiction writer.) I don't know where Doug learned this method so no claims are made to ownership. The process is fun, deep and very useful. It relies on the exploitation of atrophy. By this I mean --- the elements of our writing which get no response tend to fade away, while things that are noticed tend to thrive. Often "workshopping" focuses on "what doesn't work" with folks saying things like "I wanted more X" which is often a covert way of saying "you screwed this bit up badly."

My workshop opens with readings from good poets or short fictionists to tune up our ears and send us to the place where we do not inhibit our writing. Then I give a writing prompt (brief warm-up and then main prompt) and everyone writes for twenty-five minutes. This is very free flow writing to the prompt with no internal editor, trusting that something wants to get written.

At the end of the writing time we all read every word we have written. Here's where it's GOOD. Rather than commenting on things that don't quite work, or giving suggestions for fixing things up, we respond to the things that spoke to us, things we noticed as working. This sends the writer's attention to the part of the piece that should be listened to and expanded - it is truly amazing how many times we writers completely miss what is exciting in our first drafts. This workshop lets us help each other catch the good stuff. It runs about an hour and a half, and is great to hold before a reading. I'm always happy to do these for free in conjunction with any reading.