After the ten minutes of writing, the group read out their pieces if they wish. Usually most do, even if a bit nervously. When this loosening up exercise is finished, the serious part of the meeting, which takes up the bulk of the two hours, gets underway. This consists of critiquing work that has been emailed and read by the group in advance of the meeting. The author reads out his/her own work – about two pages if it is a prose piece. If it is a poem, it is read twice, so the rest can digest it. Recently, authors have been asking other members of the group to read out their pieces, which can be an interesting way of hearing how other people interpret your work.
Then the members discuss it. The author remains silent at this stage. The group find this very helpful, after all, if the work is published, the author is not there to tell the reader why he wrote the piece or to explain it. Often they disagree with one another about what is being said, and that is a help to the author too. As one member says, “Sometimes they see things in my work that I hadn’t intended and it has often helped me to correct my work, because when I find out that some members are confused about what I have written, I re-write it.
The rules of the group insist on constructive criticism, people say what it is they like about the piece as well as suggestions for improving the piece. While the group doesn’t believe in a whitewash, care is taken not to be too personal. After everyone has had their say, the facilitator asks the author if he/she wishes to respond. Sometimes the author just says thank you, sometimes they might have a few questions about what has been said.
As one of the poets in the group says about the feedback, “I find it a great help to have my poems workshopped. When you have about twelve people concentrating on your poem, and offering suggestions, that is a privilege. Of course at the end of the day it is also my decision whether to incorporate any of the suggestions!”
A number of members have found some publishing success through the workshop process, “After a piece of mine was workshopped, I submitted it for publication and it was accepted”
Critiquing other people’s work also seems to have other positive affects. As one new member says “You find that the more you engage critically with the work of others, the more you learn to be an objective reader of your own work.”
After the critiquing of work, there are usually a few minutes for ‘any other business’ and the group decides who will be facilitator for the next meeting. Then some of the group adjourn to a local pub in Dalkey for light and not so light refreshments.
For some members, this social side can prove to be important “One of the things I like about the workshop, is the social aspect, and often I pick up valuable hints over a pint and a plate of chips”.
DWW is an important part of most members writing lives, “I have been a member for four and a half years, and it is the best thing I have ever done”
The group currently has a waiting list. There is a gentle introduction process for becoming a member so newcomers and existing members can feel comfortable. The only real criteria for joining is an interest in writing, with a willingness to participate and a desire to learn and improve. Some of the members are published authors, some are just starting to write. If you are interested in joining, just email us on our contact page.