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Writers' Workshops & the Work of Making Things: Patterns, Poetry...

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  • Copyright 2002
  • Edition: 1st
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  • ISBN-10: 0-201-72183-X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-72183-6

"Richard Gabriel explains clearly and thoughtfully why and how the workshop approach can methodically enhance individual vision through communal creativity. Poets, come down from your lonely garrets! Programmers, emerge from your cubicles! Read this book. Your friends can help you and your art may be the better for it."

—Guy L. Steele Jr., Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

"This comprehensive guide to the practice is packed with anecdotes and examples, entertaining reading threaded with lots of useful, practical information. I think it's destined to be an indispensable sourcebook for creators of all kinds, regardless of their fields."

—Janet Holmes, MFA Program for Writers, Boise State University, author of Humanophone

"After reading this book I'm eager to fully experience workshopping and see what the process really can bring to me and to others. Gabriel's extension of the workshop format to refining other types of work sets the wheels spinning for me. How many other 'things that need refinement' can benefit from the same treatment?"

—Kent Beck, Director, Three Rivers Institute

"Richard Gabriel writes with insight, experience, and a wry sense of humor that casts light on this little explored creative activity and kept me reading from the first page to the last."

—Richard Schmitt, author of The Aerialist

The writers' workshop provides creative writers with a time-tested teaching and revision tool, and business and technical professionals with a new and effective alternative to impersonal peer reviews and scientific workshops. In this intense, interactive, gift-based forum, writers help each other hone their craft and improve individual pieces of work.

Writers' Workshops & the Work of Making Things describes in detail how to conduct and participate in a successful creative or technical workshop. You will learn from the author's own struggles, as well as from the collective experience of the software patterns and creative writing communities.

Topics include:

  • Origins of the writers' workshop
  • How the workshop works
  • The nature of creative work
  • Workshop players and settings
  • Workshop preparation
  • The author's initial presentation
  • Restating and summarizing the work
  • Providing positive feedback
  • Suggestions for improvements
  • The author's response and revision
  • Whether you write poems, short stories, documentation, or software, the collective energy of a writers' workshop can significantly enhance innovation, clarity, and effectiveness in your writing. Writers' Workshops & the Work of Making Things will help you get the most from a workshop experience.


    Sample Content

    Online Sample Chapter

    Using a Writers' Workshop to Improve Software Patterns

    Downloadable Sample Chapter

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    Sample Chapter 4

    Table of Contents




     1. Writers' Workshop Overview.

     2. Crowd.


     3. Triggers and Practice.
     4. Work in Progress.
     5. The Gift.


     6. The Players.
     7. The Setting.
     8. In Situ.
     9. Preparing for the Workshop.
    10. Shepherds.
    11. The Author Reads.
    12. Fly on the Wall.
    13. Summarize the Work.
    14. Positive Feedback.
    15. Suggestions for Improvement.
    17. Wrapping Up.
    18. Revising the Work.
    Coda: The Work of Making Things.
    Appendix A: Examples.
    Appendix B: Writing Workshops Guidelines for Feedback.
    About the Author. 020172183XT05312002


    In November 1999, Paul Becker of Addison-Wesley approached me at a conference in Denver and told me I was the perfect person to write a book on the writers' workshop. I thought he was nuts. He thought I was nuts back. We were both right. He was thinking of a book only for the software world--a primer on the writers' workshop as I had introduced it there. I was thinking of a book for both software people and "real" writers. I was sure there were plenty of books about the writers' workshop: There are books about every aspect of writing except maybe how to sharpen pencils. But not so--I couldn't find much that talked about the writers' workshop and how it worked.

    I told him to forget it anyway.

    He emailed me a few times.

    Forget it.

    After the third or fourth email I was starting to believe it might be fun since I had been thinking about how to address both audiences at once. I finally agreed.

    But I missed all his deadlines, and the draft I sent him in July of 2001 was OK, but minimal. We had agreed on a short book, but I had sent him a chapbook.Then I asked the two writing communities I am in--the alumni of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers and the design patterns community-- to tell me what they knew about the writers' workshop, and I was hit by a tsunami of stories, advice, and ideas. Many of them were so good that I left them mostly in their words. It's part of the writers' tradition of stealing (but I did ask if it was OK).

    Writing a book on writers' workshop brings one dangerously close to the possibil-ity of writing on writing and creativity in general. There are already many books on those two topics. I am an expert in neither, certainly not as measured by edu-cation and research. I am a practitioner of both, though, and I've approached this book from the outlook of a simple laborer in those areas. There are theories of learning, ideas developed by composition theorists--I could have looked into how theories of creativity and selfhood play into the workshop, or how to apply stage-development theory and philosophy to the problem of how to help a writer become autonomous. I could have delved more deeply into cultural, racial, and gender issues in the workshop. These would be good things to do, but they are not the good things I am able to do well.

    I know what it feels like to try to learn how to write, how to be a musician, how to create new ideas. Not being blessed with much talent to begin with, I think I've made do with what I was given well enough to be proud of it. And to think I have something to share about the road I took.

    I don't know if this book will be useful for you, but I hope it will be. I can tell you I had a great good time writing it, and sometimes--but not now--I wished I never had to stop.


    Redwood City




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