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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Editing Ourselves and Others: What We Can Learn from Writer's Workshops

Mark Caldwell sent me a link to an Opinionator article on writing workshops. Written by Amy Klein, the article is entitled, The Writing Workshop Glossary. It's a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of writing workshops. Having attended a few writing workshops myself, I found Klein's observations enjoyable to read, and right on point. As Mark pointed out to me in an email, the piece also has some application to what we do as advocates and advocacy teachers. Especially as advocacy teachers, we spend a great deal of time listening to the work of others, critiquing it, and offering suggestions for improvement. These efforts--like the criticisms of the writing workshop participants in Klein's article--are not always appreciated by the recipients, especially in the moment. Nonetheless, learning to listen to the viewpoints of others and adjust one's work accordingly is key to the development of advocates.

Many top advocates run focus groups for their cases in the weeks and months leading to trial. They take seriously the feedback they get from the focus group participants. Their example is a great one for our students to follow. Like writing workshop participants, these advocates have learned how the insights of others can help them improve their craft.

Below, I've included a short article I wrote a few years ago about how to help advocates find themes for their cases. In essence, helping others work through their case analysis and ideas to find the authentic story and true theme at the heart of their case is very similar to the writer's workshops Klein writes about.

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