The Writing Workshop That Runs Itself
Wonderful account by author Ben Dolnick on his experiences as a NYWC workshop leader.
"Every Monday afternoon, I go to a tucked-away classroom on the second floor of the Brooklyn Public Library and sit around a long table with 20 or so people and write. Anyone can participate: teenagers with battered notebooks full of love poems, retirees ripe with memoirs, new immigrants eager to brush up on their English, homeless people looking for a warm quiet room.
I am, ostensibly, the leader of the workshop—I give the prompts, I provide the paper when someone runs out—but the core group has been together long enough that the participants could run it themselves. There have in fact been Mondays, in the years that we’ve been together, when for one reason or another I’ve missed a session, and the group has carried on merrily without me. They know the rules (no negative comments, treat everything as fiction). They know the sorts of prompts we tend to use (write a piece in which someone has a secret; write a piece without the letter “e”). The workshop has become a driverless car, and though I sit in the driver’s seat, my hands on the wheel, my feet pumping seriously, my role has become largely ceremonial...."