• First contact
In a writing school, the first contact between a candidate and the structure is highly relevant. It can determine the candidate’s decision to start the adventure of the writing class. It’s not only an opportunity to exchange some practical information, but also a time to express expectations, demands, introduce oneself, receive an answer. The person who welcomes must listen with care in order to detect these different components, be tactful, intuitive and empathic in order to hear and give an answer even to unsaid or implicit expectations.
• Welcoming measures
The quality of the communication devices (website, flyers, availability) obviously matters in order to welcome. It is also good for a school to actively attend encounters, fairs, radio shows, literary and social events, etc.
A very important role is played by the first workshop the students attend at our school. Les Ateliers d’écriture Elisabeth Bing have created a special introductory workshop (Atelier Découverte) to enable candidates to experiment our approach. It has the function of a filter (or of a “Sesame”). The quality – both relational and pedagogical – offered by the teacher often determines the candidates’ decision to go on.
• The welcoming of the texts …
Each three-hour workshop is divided in three parts. First the teacher formulates the prompt. This phase is followed by a writing time. Finally the written texts are read by their authors and discussed. During the writing time – the time necessary for the text to be created – the teacher furthers silence, discretion, concentration. But he or she also offers his/her availability answering questions that might arise, offering hints or encouragement when necessary. During the time of reading, the teacher welcomes each participant’s “voice” in its individuality. He or she offers personalized feedback and help to improve and evolve.
• … and of their side-effects
If we are primarily interested in the texts and in the way they work literarily, we also welcome the emotions that they trigger (inside the writer and inside the readers.)
The words of a former student come back to my mind. She stressed the importance of silence, be it during the time spent writing but also when listening to the texts and perceiving the emotions caused by them. Silence allows for a time of incubation, offers a time of relief between two intense moments – like in a symphony, or in a play, or in a choreography or in a poem. Then silence is like a receptacle, a form of respect, it’s like taking a breath that allows to give some depth to the artwork, to the time spent creating. In these moments welcoming takes the form of a meditative silence.
(Les Ateliers d’écriture Elisabeth Bing, Paris)