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20 September 2021

Posted by Antosh Wojcik

Zoom Sessions & Rotational Generative Sessions / Workshop Sessions – Facilitation Focus

MAST Collective was born in the wake of the worldwide pandemic.
We met in person for 3 weeks and were then, rightfully, thrust into online
delivery. This is an aggregation of facilitation methods that I’ve employed
whilst running the collective for ArtfulScribe & Engage at MAST Studios.

We work in a rotational way, the sessions’ focus moving from
Generative Weeks to Workshop Weeks.

This was implemented as a pandemic response, initially. Running
the group on Zoom required further attention to course content delivery and
giving ample preparation for workshop notes – there was so much happening in
the world that pulling a writer’s focus into a certain mode demanded care and
precise framing. There is also Zoom fatigue to factor in, with additional
constraints around engagement – it’s a lot easier in a space to draw out responses
as your internal social skills are reactive. A screen is not a person, the same
kinds of social responses the we potentially rely on in workshop to boon our
sharings and anxieties.

The benefits of online sessions / workshops I have found:

  • ·        Safeguarding those who are ill / vulnerable /
    shielding.
  • ·        
    Inclusivity tools for those who cannot access physical
    spaces.
  • ·        
    Regional provision widened and not limited to location.
  • ·        
    Utilising chat windows for those in the group
    who are nervous around voicing.
  • ·        
    Ease of disseminating stimulus (more room for
    mixed media stimulus too) and workshop materials.

Generative Sessions are sessions that are stimulus and prompt
heavy. Creativity focus. Time to write. My prompts range from overly-prescriptive
to free - I try to balance. I pull models from stimulus and hope to offer lenses
to craft ideas and inspiration modes with the more prescriptive approaches. I
will sometimes lecture, but tend to keep this short because of the online space
and difficulties of attention. I always encourage deviation from the task. I
balance the generative session with a rough 65-80% of prompt, the remaining %
for craft / edit tasks and discussion.

Workshop Sessions are sessions where writers submit their
writing to receive feedback. The session will net submissions a week before, which
are then circulated to the group for them to prepare notes. This was a group
decision to prepare notes prior to session – a screen time reduction tactic. If
there’s time, there will be an edit / craft task that is derived from one of
the writer’s submissions. This acts as a means of uplifting a writerly challenge
from inside the group as opposed to an exalted problem that’s an abstract idea
from the facilitator – I’ve found this gives a little more humanity and
purchase to talking about craft.

The idea behind this rotational approach of Generative /
Workshops has the following benefits & possibilities:

  • ·        
    There’s a clear framework of focus for the
    writer per session. It’s determined what kind of energy they will need to
    expend – one of introspection (Generative) or one of feedback / social
    attention (Workshop).
  • ·        
    There’s a democracy to the course content – the rotation
    can be responsive to how the writers in the group are feeling.
  • ·        
    The content can be liquid – I can work more
    iteratively, allow the flow of ideas and themes to emerge from the group and
    design prompts around that, deepening exploration.
  • ·        
    Deeper workshop notes – reading in session is
    cut down and focussed feedback is offered.

    The intention of this account is to take stock of some
    principles and perhaps offer models or solidarity to all those facilitating
    during the pandemic. I’ve found I’ve had to spend as much time working out ‘how
    I’m going to work’ vs. ‘what am I going to teach’ over the past year and a
    half. Hopefully this provides some ballast for the facilitators out there –
    even in these times, you can create models that expand your practice.

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