Sitting Ina Circle

... authors are assembled to review the work of a colleague. Just as the symmetry and geometry of an office space of set of buildings can thwart or support "what happens there," so can the simple organization of room furniture. How should a WritersWorkshop room be laid out?

* * *

A WritersWorkshop is a community of trust and support, and the room structure should reflect that. Most meeting rooms are set up with tables and chairs. The tables help people take notes, provide a place for beverages, and support those who sag as the meeting drags on.

However, tables also provide a shield to hide behind. While the presenter may feel vulnerable at the front of the room, the rest of the attendees feel shielded behind the sturdy ramparts of the meeting room tables, which are rarely flimsy card-table affairs, but formidable hardwood structures. It is convenient to hide behind them.

Yet, in a WritersWorkshop, we want to make the author feel comfortable, as if the reviewers are not attacking from behind defenced bullwarks.


Seat the reviewers in a circle. Both the author and moderator form part of the circle; the structure is fully egalitarian. Don't use tables: all participants should present an equally vulnerable (or supportive) face to the circle as a whole.

Beverages can go on the floor. Except for the author, who may wish to bring a clipboard to take notes, few of the participants should be writing during the review.

* * *

The author may stand in place for AuthorReadsTheWork or, if the author is so inclined, may move to the center of the circle.

During the review proper, when the author is a FlyOnTheWall, it is sometimes customary for the author to move outside the circle.

Because authors form the community of trust, they might form their own AuthorsCircle inside the circle of observers, in fishbowl style.

NEXT: AuthorsCircle

-- JimCoplien 1996/8/26
[ WritersWorkshopPatterns | AuthorsCircle ]

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