Remember how techno-terrified you were at the beginning of the semester?
Well, I know you're all probably a bit nervous about the workshops as
well, but I think you'll find that they're simply wonderful. As writers,
few things can compare to the experience of having a room full of people
take our work seriously and engage in a meaninful and productive discussion
about that work.
There are some things we can agree to do as respondents to aleviate
some of the writer's anxiety about our discussion. So please follow the
- When you are praising something specific in the work, direct that
praise to the writer and explain why you like what you like in the piece.
For example, you might say, "I really like the way you...because..."
or "one thing you do really well in this project is...because..."
- When you are making a specific suggestion to improve the work, direct
that suggestion at the work itself. For example, you might say, "I
think that one thing that would make this project more meaningful for
the target audience is...because..." or "one thing that would
really improve this project is if it included (omitted, referenced,
illustrated, critiqued, etc.)...because..."
- Let's agree to avoid discussing grammar at this stage, and if you
address something like organization, be specific in identifying the
problem, identify why it is a problem, and make a suggestion for how
that problem might be resolved. In other words, avoid static abstractions
or short-hand critiques like "improve flow," "improve
organization," and "include outside sources." you may
use these abstractions, but only if you identify where the problem is
specifically, why it is a problem, and how to correct that problem.
"Use transitions" is an unproductive suggestion for improving
flow since, well, duh. But offering suggestions for where the writer
might locate the mysterious "outside sources" you recommend
- Everyone except the writer should be over-prepared to discuss the
works. The discussion should be lively and productive, and the writer
should leave with some very specific suggestions about what to do next.
- Everyone in the class will write a full-page, single-spaced, 12 pt,
Times New Roman response for every writer. On the day of the workshop
you will only need your responses to the 5-6 texts we'll be workshopping
on that day. Bring in two copies of your responses (one for the writer
and one for me). Do not expect to type up or print up your responses
The Response Format
Your response will be in the form of a letter to the writer.
- Begin with a greeting, "Dear So-and-So" or "Hi So-and-So"
- In your first paragraph identify something specific the writer has
done that you really liked and explain why you liked it. "You write
good," aside from being grammatically incorrect, is really not
the kind of praise we're looking for here. Be specific. In addition,
you might also include a summary of what you think the work is trying
to do and how readers might benefit from this text. In other words,
your summary will let the writer know if the work is fulfilling the
purpose he/she intended or if readers are recognizing another possible
purpose for the work. Why might this text be important to a specific
group of people and how might they use it?
- Identify one global issue with the work, one big issue that the writer
might want to consider as he/she revises. Provide a rationale for your
concern about this issue and a possible solution for the writer to consider.
- Address the questions the writer wrote, being as generous in the quality
and quantity of the answers as possible. The writer's questions will
identify two possible problems or concerns with the text, and you will
provide possible solutions.
- Address any other aspects of the work that you feel should be addressed
at this stage.
- Close by pointing out something else about the work that you feel
is particularily strong, entertaining, informative, useful, unexpected,
- Sign your name and include your email address in case the writer has
any additional questions about your response.
You need not follow this format exactly. If, for example, you wish to
focus more on the writer's questions or on that big issue you identified
in the text, feel free to devote your entire response to those things.
But please remember to sandwich your critique with two positive things
about the writer and what he/she has done with the work, and remember
that you will be evaluated on the quality of response you give during
these workshops (which is why you need two copies of your response: one
for the writer and one for me).