My Workshop Experience

Cathy Beaudoin (left) at a BWW meeting in 2014.
Cathy Beaudoin (left) at a BWW meeting in 2014.

I primarily consider myself a reader of other writers’ work.

In that role, I just read a piece and provide simple feedback about what works in the piece and what can be expanded or improved upon.

But I recently presented a short story I wrote at the Burlington Writers Workshop. I have been attending workshops on and off for about a year and a half. I’d previously presented one other short story, as well as its revision.

As a writer receiving feedback, I was struck by the efficiency of the workshop process. The workshop had seven attendees, not including myself. My story was approximately 2,100 words, and my sense was that it was just a bit too short. At the beginning of the review of my work, I was asked what I wanted the group to discuss.

My answer was simple, “I want to know what parts of the work might need to be expanded on.”

As is the process with all of these workshops, I then went into a magical “box” while the readers talked about my work amongst each other. When you’re in the “box,” the trick as the writer is to understand you are not part of the conversation and are not there to defend or explain your work. Instead, your job is to listen carefully.

In most cases, including mine, common themes about how people react to a story will emerge. It is then up to the writer to determine how, if at all, to revise his/her work based on the sentiment expressed during the readers discussion. In this particular workshop session, readers did a fantastic job of focusing on my request and gave me solid feedback about where to expand the work.

I am grateful for receiving such valuable feedback from people I either have never met, or barely know at all. If you are a writer, new or seasoned, and would like to receive feedback on your writing, or if you would like to be a reader graciously giving your time to help others, you may find the writing workshop experience a meaningful one. I know I do.

To join the Burlington Writers Workshop (it’s free!), click here.

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