WLS Short Story Workshops

A Wisdom Like a Stone (WLS) workshop lasts four months (17 weeks).  Each workshop has a designated workshop leader (who is also a full participant in the workshop).  It is designed for part-time writers (i.e. writers with day jobs).

First, two guiding principles:

1) Working in a group–critiquing other work, and having your work critiqued by others–will improve the quality of your work and make you a better writer.  If you disagree with this statement, then these workshops probably aren’t for you.

2) Writers need structure and motivation.  A properly structure workshop gives you the opportunity to obligate yourself to write.

This is the basic outline of a WLS workshop (durations of different tasks are in square brackets]:

1) You submit a picture, contact information, and a short bio (the picture and short bio will be posted on the www.wisdomlikeastone.com web site).  Workshop participants should read the bios, exchange posts on the blog if they wish, and just generally get to know each other a little.  This marks the start of the workshop.

2) You write and submit a short story.  The story must be new, original, unpublished work written for the WLS workshop (it should not be something you’ve been working on, or that you have in your desk drawer, or that has been submmitted to various magazines and rejectec, etc.).  The story MUST be between 2000 – 5000 words.  It should be formatted for submission to a literary magazine.  The story may be posted directly on the www.wisdomlikeastone.com or emailed to workshops@wisdomlikeastone.com (more detail on story submission elsewhere).  [8 weeks]

3) You read 2-3 other stories and critique them.  First, you should provide “global” feedback, beginning with some positive comments.  You should describe for the author your first impression of the work, what you were thinking and feeling as you read it, etc.  Although you should start with some positive comments, you should also be honest about your initial reaction.  If you don’t think the work is balanced, or is sufficiently coherent or undestandable, then say so, etc.  Don’t worry about justifying your statements at this point–just describe your reactions.  Second, and this is the most time consuming (and the most important), provide DETAILED and INTERACTIVE comments on the structure and writing.  If you think a paragraph is clumsy, then say so, but then go a step further, and try to rewrite it.  If you don’t like the word choice in a particular sentence, then say so, but then suggest other words.  Do your best SHOW the author how you would go about improving the work, don’t just tell them.  As a general rule, you should spend 1-2 hours per 1000 words on your critique.  Your critique of the 2-3 short stories assigned to you may take 8-10 hours to complete. [4 weeks]

Two warnings:

You MUST be able to accept criticism and be able to use it constructively.  That doesn’t mean that you will agree with everything–but you must develop the ability to process it and use it to improve your work.

You MUST be able to accept criticism of your criticism (and respect the author’s right to control the creative direction of his or her work).  Your responsibility is to provide constructive feedback to the author–and to do your best to show how the work could be improved.  It is up to the author to determine how your feedback is ultimately incorporated (if it is incorporated) into the revised work.

There is very little room for ego on either side.

4) You submit your feedback (using either the site or email).  Feedback is provided to the authors and everyone else in the group or workshop.

5) Conference calls (probably using Skype) are scheduled and conducted for each short story in the group.  A conference will generally include a few minutes of introductory discussion, then workshop participants will each have 15 minutes or so to summarize their feedback.  The author of the story is NOT allowed to engage in this discussion beyond minimal acknowledgement of the information (i.e. the author is NOT allowed to explain, justify, etc.).  If other workshop participants ask the author a direct question, the author may provide a brief response.  The author should be actively listening to the discussion and taking notes–not thinking about defending their work.  While Skype calls are being scheduled and conducted, authors should be processing recevied written criticism and preparing to start revising their work.  [1 weeks]

5)  Revise and resubmit your story. [3 weeks]

6) Final comments and submission to appropriate literary magazines.  Generally the target is 12-15 simultaneous submissions.  Preparation of the submission (formatting, etc.) and generation of cover letters, etc.  is part of the workshop.  At this point the workshop ends, although participants are obligated to report the outcome of their submissions when they are notified. [1 week]

About the author

Brent D. Beal is an associate professor of management in the College of Business and Technology at the University of Texas at Tyler. In his spare time, he enjoys debating religious and political issues, reading and writing short stories, playing Scrabble, and hanging out with his wife and their three kids.

One Comment

  1. Chrissy says:

    This sounds like exactly what I need. I’m excited to start!


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