Workshopping In Florence

Jean and Alice alternated their sessions. Each teacher held a workshop on one of our submissions and both talked about craft issues. Jean started each session with a craft discussion and Alice integrated craft issues into our discussions about each submission. 

The requirements for our class that we’d been given by David Everett said that we needed to give a copy of our comments for each student to our teachers. I think this was a surprise to our teachers, but they accepted them. The requirement was nothing new for us because we had done it in all of my other workshops. Jean told me that my comments on other people’s work were thoughtful which I took as a sign that my analysis of other people’s writing had improved.

There was a clique in the workshop that was a little distracting, a younger group of people from Washington that I hadn’t encountered before. One student in particular had a rather caustic way of commenting on other people’s work or maybe it was just a little thoughtlessness on his part. He was a good writer but even if you changed the intensity of his comments, I thought that he frequently didn’t hit the mark when it came to commenting on other people’s work. He wasn’t infallible. I did contradict him when I thought I should and a minor battle ensued for a few sessions until we all settled down. The combative nature was evident to some degree in all of my workshops. I didn’t expect that competitiveness when I signed up for the program. And I certainly didn’t expect to be the target of that kind of behavior since I can find more wrong with my writing than anyone. When I look back on the workshop, maybe I jumped on my white horse too soon although I had the definite feeling that the mild mannered comments of Alice and Jean weren’t having what I considered to be the desired effect.

After Jean had asked me to read an exercise I’d written the night before, several students made a point of telling me that it hadn’t meant that my exercise was one of the best. I’d already learned to ignore pointedly negative comments that some students made about my writing. If they had listened more closely they would have known why she had me read my paragraphs. She wasn’t talking so much about how I’d described the room as a wedge of hot lemon meringue pie. (The air conditioner wasn’t working properly and we were suffering as we wrote our exercise.) What she commented on was how I’d created another room in my little vignette as a symbol of what happens to me when I’m writing, how another place opens up when the creative juices are flowing.  


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
This entry was posted in Graduate Writing Programs, Johns Hopkins University, workshops, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Workshopping In Florence

  1. Neeks says:

    Don’t listen to the haters, keep doing your thing!

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