Full disclosure: before this semester, the only type of workshops that I have ever encountered—whether it was in undergrad, my week at VONA last summer, or even last semester—were paper-based workshops. I never questioned why this was, and quite frankly, it always seemed to absolute sense to me…Literature, in general, is a paper-based market, and continues to be, despite the rise of e-books and their accessibility on devices like iPads and Amazon’s Kindle. This semester, I am taking two poetry courses: the required poetry workshop, and a poetry craft seminar. It wasn’t until my poetry craft seminar that I encountered a workshop that was primarily electronic-based.
Instead of the usual “bring 14 copies of your poem to class next week,” all our poems are submitted online, through Canvas, before a deadline that is usually before the start of class. Furthermore, we are not to print out copies of each other’s once we get the Canvas notifications that everyone else’s work is available for us to view. Instead, we are to write comments online through a “Peer Review” tab that appears underneath our weekly submission. I was a bit mortified by this.
At the time, I did not think that there could be anything more beautiful than hearing a stack of papers being passed around a classroom, clockwise, because each piece of paper seemed to be a poetic gift from one of my peers. And what comes after that? The lovely sounds of gathering and stacking all of those new poems into a single pile, a sound that is made by my peers and I at the same time. Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the sound of my pen as it moves across pages of poems I am critiquing—I have a specific fountain pen that brings me great gratification as I workshop! It seemed like that was all going to be taken away from me. . . .
But as I am few weeks into the semester now, I am beginning to see some of the benefits of electronic-based workshops. For one, it’s easier for my peers to read my comments. Even though I love writing with my fountain pen, my hand writing is not exactly the most legible. It’s small and generally disjointed if there are no lines on the paper (my mom says I have “doctor” hand writing!).
Another benefit is that, for a change, my poems that are workshopped are actually organized in a single space. Papers of poetry for my craft seminar aren’t flying around everywhere in my room, or shoved into several unmarked folders and binders. No, they are all in one spot: online! This is a sort of organization that I am not entirely used to.
So, while I am still learning how to sort out the kinks and adjusting to electronic-based workshops for my craft seminar, I am extremely thankful that my workshop course has stuck to the traditional paper-based workshops, which has provided some sanity for me and is still my preferred mode.