This afternoon the workshop groups met and discussed two writers' work. My workshop has 12 students, a mix of first, second, etc. term students. Rita Williams-Garcia and Norma Fox Mazer are the leaders. This is Rita's second semester at Vermont. Norma has been here since the beginning of the program (minus the very first semester).
We introduced ourselves and then Rita explained how it would work. The workshop meets for just over two hours each time, six times during the residency, so each person gets critiqued for an hour. In my workshop, the author isn't allowed to speak until the end when she/he can respond to questions and ask questions. I'd say more than half the session is devoted to positive comments--the good stuff that we find in each others' work. Then we delve into what somebody called "the dark side." But believe me, it's not very dark.
We started with a fabulous piece that hardly any one could find a fault with, including Rita and Norma. It was just gorgeous language and imagery. To me it read like literary fiction (but with a story) that would also appeal to adults.
One very nice thing about this workshop is how people don't talk over each other, even though there's no formal turn taking. Norma did, however, make sure that everybody said something. (I didn't have much to say, but I tossed something out.) Also, Norma and Rita were not the first to speak. It was really a democratic sort of discussion. That's not to say that everyone agreed all the time. Au contraire. The disagreements were enlightening too.
The people who've been here a while are very good at taking a piece and evaluating it on its own merits. After the very literary, poetic first piece, we turned our attention to a middle grade suspense/adventure novel. It was a fun contrast.
I'm scheduled to be critiqued on Monday.