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There is something magical about the early weeks of daring each writer to create a Page One Moment and a first scene or two. 


However, engaging each group member in deepening and building on these moments, to continue the journey is a very different story.  This is true whether the participants are working for three to six weeks to write about a particular memory that needs to be told, or developing book-length projects over years of incarceration or within a community setting.  This chapter will take you through an exploration of different options and skills sets that are bound to come up as you, as the facilitator will make certain decisions as to your expectations and goals.


  • Are you invested in people having a finished product at the end of your workshop series?

  • Or would you prefer to have people give their all to each stage of the work, regardless of whether they are near the end of their writing journey when a time-bound workshop series draws to a close?  

    • We have had the experience of having people start projects that are interrupted, continuing or returning years later, precisely because so much time has been devoted to building momentum and power.  

    • In cases where people have been sent upstate to serve long sentences, the unfinished manuscripts, written in jail-approved pebble notebooks without springs, become a lifeline.

    • In cases where people are released to the streets or their notebooks are confiscated, their memory of their stories in depth often sends them back to our organization many years later. 

    • So the fact that they don’t rush to finish their project is a blessing in disguise.   

  • Are you working with an ongoing program?  (Note that often in prison or jail-based settings or with re-entry or probation programming, workshop offerings are incorporated for years on end.  In this case you will have some people who would like to have their work remain open-ended, while others are product driven.  


This chapter is designed to help you deal with both possibilities at once.  We refer you to look Part C of Chapter II, “What to do when people are in different stages of the writing.” 


Regardless of how you have answered these three questions, the overarching goal is to help every writer to develop the skills sets, along with the internal and external agreement to keep going in a deliberate enough way to recapture what happened in the past in a way that will be compelling to the Stranger/ Reader, while providing the writer with new lenses and insights, every step of the way. 

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