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Chapter SEVEN. The Setting

The primary purpose of most rules and rituals for the workshop is to create a safe setting for the authors. They are put in vulnerable positions by having their in-progress works put on display while not being able to speak or defend the work or themselves. For many authors, the trauma of letting people read unfinished, unpolished work can be significant—but this is the nature of the gift of that work. For the workshop to work, this situation must be comfortable, safe, and productive in helping authors with their works and with becoming better writers and designers. The ritual of the writers' workshop maximizes the effect of the gift-giving nature of the workshop: the gift of the unfinished work, of the time and expertise of the reviewers, of the teaching skills of the workshop leader, and of the emergent expertise of the group as a group mind.

Many workshops have an existing culture because they are part of an ongoing series, perhaps yearly (for example, Bread Loaf). Each workshop creates its own subculture by inheriting this existing culture and by following the rules of the workshop. This creates a setting that either is already or soon will be familiar to each participant—everyone knows how to behave and what the norms are for that behavior.


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