On Mondays from 3:10-6pm this semester, I had class. One class. And though a nearly 3 hour class might sound horrific, mine really wasn’t. That’s because this class was a writing workshop.
As an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing, I have to take a minimum of 4 different workshops, in at least two different genres. There are three genres total–non fiction, fiction, and poetry. There are also three different levels–beginner’s, intermediate, and advanced. Intermediate and advanced workshops are unique to most Vanderbilt classes in that you have to submit work to get into the class.
My first workshop here at Vanderbilt was second semester freshman year–I took beginner’s poetry workshop to see if I liked it and wanted to potentially keep taking those sorts of classes. I had never really shared my poetry in a classroom setting, so it was nerve-wracking but a lot of fun.
Workshops are awesome because each one is completely unique and shaped not just by the teacher and topic, but the students in the class. The way they work varies a little from class to class, but generally assignments you turn in are then read and critiqued by the class. Take my fiction class this semester–we submitted a scene to be admitted to that class and then two major stories. Our class met once a week and we’d spend those 3 hours talking about two or three classmates’ stories and then maybe a short story we had read or a specific element of craft we covered in our text book.
This means you get feedback on your work from not just a teacher, but also 14 other students–creating a wide variety of constructive criticism. For this class, we then turned in a final portfolio at the end of the semester in which we were required to have revised our stories using the feedback we got in class.
Workshops often take on a personality, and every one that I’ve taken so far has been a great and different experience that has really helped me grow as a writer. Workshops always fly by–so really, having a 3 hour class is not so bad.