The People’s Ink is a writer’s workshop that’s free, inclusive, structured, and community-based.
Each week, our Tuesday and Wednesday night workshops collectively average an attendance of between 40 and 60 writers. These members are spread across nearly a dozen critique, discussion, and writing groups. In addition to these workshops, The People’s Ink is the incubator of several independent publishing ventures, including our community-curated blog, at Peoples-Ink.com; our tri-yearly zine, Typehouse; our speculative podcast, The Overcast; and our authors collective.
Members are welcome to participate in the fashion best suited to their unique goals as writers.
Are you interested in becoming a member? If so, please read the syllabus below to discover more about The People’s Ink, and to learn what’s expected of you as a potential new member. To set up your first attendance, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In your communication, please include an introduction describing your history as a writer and your current literary goals.
We’re always looking for new writers to join our meetings – we hope to hear from you soon!
The People’s Ink is a free, inclusive, structured, and community-based writers workshop.
- Free. Attendance and participation costs no money, ever.
- Inclusive. Anyone who is passionate about their writing, committed to participation in the group format(s) of their choosing, and who follows the community guidelines, is welcome.
- Structured. We provide clear expectations and thoroughly coordinated group planning in order to achieve a constructive and pragmatic writers workshop experience.
- Community. We unite writers from throughout the Portland metropolitan area in the spirit of support, collaboration, and learning.
Members are expected to:
- Write consistently in order to have meaningful work available for critique.
- Read their assigned submission(s) thoroughly before each meeting and come prepared to engage in a productive discussion.
- Attend each assigned meeting as best they can, be timely with their arrival, and remain for the entire duration of the workshop.
- Provide notice in advance when unable to attend a meeting.
- Remain open-minded, fair, and respectful during workshops.
Our model is stable enough to provide consistency, but fluid enough to meet the needs and desires of writers of all styles, intentions, and literary lineages. All group formats depends upon the ever-changing needs of the People’s Ink community, and evolve accordingly.
Our workshops meet Tuesdays and Wednesdays in southeast Portland from 7:00PM until 8:30PM. Our Tuesday workshops are for literary fiction, non-fiction, essay, memoir, and poetry. Our Wednesday workshops are for genre fiction, which includes science-fiction, fantasy, young adult, horror, mystery, romance, thriller, and action-adventure.
As of 1/2016, The People’s Ink offers the following group formats: 1) Community Critique Groups, 2) The Poetry Focus Group, 3) The Literature and Memoir Focus Group, 4) The Experimental and Philosophical Focus Group, 5) The Speculative Fiction Focus Group, 6) The YA and Fantasy Focus Group, 7) The Irony and Form Focus Group, 8) The Manuscript Exchange Focus Group, 9) 1-on-1 Manuscript Exchanges, 10) The Literary Theory Discussion Group, and 11) The Speculative Fiction Discussion Group.
Submissions and assigned texts for discussion groups are distributed in advance via our member’s only forum (http://peoples-ink.com/forumindex/).
The Structure of a Community Critique Group
A Community Critique Group consists of a submitting author, a facilitator, and up to six additional members drawn from a pool of active members and People’s Ink Observers (potential new members participating for the first time). The composition of each Community Critique Group is created taking into account submitting author requests, personalities, literary interests, attendance, and gender. Critique submissions can be in any genre, style, or format, and up to 10,000 words in length, though many submitting authors present fewer words. Submitting to the Community Critique Groups are attendance based meaning that for every 5 attendances in the Community Groups (critique, discussion, and writing groups), members are granted 1 Community Critique Group where they can submit their own writing for review.
The Structure of a Community Discussion Group
There are currently two Community Discussion Group offerings: The Literary Theory Discussion Group and The Speculative Fiction Discussion Group. The objective of a discussion group is not to critique writing submissions, but rather, to delve fully into literary topics for the edification of all discussion participants.
The Literary Theory Discussion Group offers this rotating syllabus:
- Discussion 1: Gender, Sexuality, and Writing
- Discussion 2: Race, Culture, and Writing
- Discussion 3: Economics and Writing
- Discussion 4:Literary Aesthetics
- Discussion 5: Cognitive Science, Psychoanalysis, and Writing
- Discussion 6: Meaning, Interpretation, and Absurdity
- Discussion 7: Archetypes
- Discussion 8: The Anxiety or Ecstasy of Influence
- Discussion 9: Posthumanism in the Humanities
- Discussion 10: The Writer’s Life—Placement and Extension
The Speculative Fiction Discussion Group offers this rotating syllabus (as of 1/2016, this syllabus is a work in progress, and only the first three planned discussions are listed below):
- Discussion 1: The Magic Gate – Entrance Into The Unknown
- Discussion 2: Debate: Is Epic Fantasy Becoming Decadent?
- Discussion 3: Post-optimism – Lovecraft, Ligotti, and Bakker
The Structure of a Community Writing Group
The Community Writing group entails a single activity: writing. There’s fun conversation and beer-drinking, certainly, but for the majority of the meeting, The Community Writing Group consists of quiet-time for members to focus on generating words on page. It’s a great option for those who have difficulty finding time to write during their week, as well as for those who are looking for a week off from workshopping, or who are just feeling inspired.
Wednesdays – Sci-fi/Fantasy Write-in with 9 Bridges
Each week, The People’s Ink is proud to offer a collaborative event with our sister writer’s community, 9 Bridges. This write-in is geared toward writers working on science fiction, fantasy and other speculative fiction, but all writers are welcome. To sign up to attend, check out 9 Bridges meetup.com page, where you can also find other write-ins offered by 9 Bridges: https://www.meetup.com/9BridgesPDX/. To find out more information about the 9 Bridges organization, please visit their website at: http://www.9bridges.org/.
The Structure of a Focus Group
A Focus Group represents a higher level of commitment and seriousness than the typical Community Critique Group. A Focus Group can be a critique group populated by particular kinds of writers seeking particular kinds of critiques; a long-lasting discussion group exploring a particular topic; a writing group that meet regularly for particular exercises; or any combination thereof. A Focus Group’s structure is determined by its participants, including maximum submission lengths, schedule, submission scheduling, and the activities that occur during each meeting.
Examples of two Focus Group structures:
- The Manuscript Exchange Focus Group. Novels and long-form pieces only; 50,000 word count maximum per submission; meetings once every 4-5 weeks; meetings last 2-3 hours; attendance based (1 workshop for every 5 attendances).
- The Irony and Form Focus Group. Short fiction/non-fiction; 5k word count max; meetings every other week; meetings last 1.5 hours; includes either two separate member submissions or one member submission and one discussion / writing exercise.
Offering a Critique
A critique consists of a verbal and/or written analysis of a writing submission. The purpose of a critique is to provide the submitting author with insight regarding how the writing submission might be improved. We ask that our members follow several guidelines when offering a critique.
- Critiques should be based on a complete and close reading of the writing submission.
- Contributions to the critique discussion should be succinct and on topic.
- Because sharing writing can be an intimate and possibly intimidating experience, critiques should be offered with both sensitivity and tact. However, honesty is also important. When uncertain which side to error upon, we request that you choose sensitivity and tact.
- Critiques should take into account the style, genre, draft, and intention of the writing submission. Remember: no one size fits all.
If you feel insufficiently able to critique the writing you’re assigned, please contact an administrator and your workshop assignment will be changed.
Please note, if a member’s critique fails to adhere to the above guidelines, an administrator will be notified, and the offending member will be asked to reread these guidelines and follow them more closely. If offenses are consistent or egregious, they may constitute grounds for expulsion from The People’s Ink. However, in practice, few offenses occur, and those that do are usually harmless.
The following list contains acceptable critiques to offer at The People’s Ink. This list is by no means exhaustive of what’s acceptable, nor are all the list’s items acceptable critiques for all critique group submissions. For more information about what qualifies as an acceptable critique, please request participation in The Literary Theory Discussion Group, where criticism and how-to-critique is a regular facet of the discussion.
- Your reading experience. Is the submission difficult to read? Do the words create a vivid scenario in your mind? Do you skim in an effort to finish quickly? Do you delight in the language and hang on each word? Do you read the submission in one sitting, or over many?
- Your reader response. Do you like the submission? Do you dislike the submission? Why, or why not? What emotions do you experience when reading? In your estimation, are these the emotions that the author intended? What are your favorite parts of the submission? Which parts are your least favorite?
- Language. Do you find the literary style fascinating, evocative, or poetic? Or do you find the literary style dull, dense, or confusing? Generally speaking, your analysis should take into account: (1) word choice, (2) punctuation, (3) rhythm, (4) transitions, (5) ambiance, (6) point of view, (7) and narrative voice, among other aspects of language. The more precisely you can analyze and deconstruct the writing submission into the components of its language usage, the more meaningful your suggestions will become.
- Narration. Do you find the narrative arc compelling? Do you find it ineffective? Generally speaking, your analysis should take into account: (1) character, (2) plot, (3) action / tension / dramatic stakes, (4) comedic / horrific / romantic / dramatic impact, (5) plot twists, (6) climax, and (7) resolution, among other aspects of narrative. As with language, the more precisely you can analyze and deconstruct the writing submission into its narrative components, the more meaningful your suggestions will become.
- Theme. What is the submission’s message? Is it clear? Is it convincing? Is it familiar or unfamiliar? Does it contribute meaningfully to conversations in its intended subject matter(s)?
- Symbolism. What symbols are present in the characters, events, and descriptions? How are they familiar, and how are they unfamiliar? How do they follow the conventions of the genre that they appear within, and how do they break those conventions? What do the symbols represent? What are their goals? Do they accomplish their goals?
- Commercial Considerations. Can you envision a readership for the writing submission? If yes, where might it find an audience? If not, how might the writing submission become more commercial?
- Sociocultural. How might differing cultures respond to the critique group submission? Are characters unintentionally stereotypical? Are characters presented with equality and without bias? What sort of sociocultural messages does the critique group submission convey? Would it have a positive impact upon the world?
- Psychoanalytic. Does the critique group submission seem intentionally or unintentionally psychologically revealing of its author? Does the critique group submission serve a personal psychological goal of the writer’s? If so, is this apparent to the reader? Should it be?
Receiving a Critique
To get the most out of a critique, be proactive, active, and reflective.
Proactive. Being proactive means asking for the feedback you wish to receive. Here are some examples: “Is character X growing sufficiently in chapter 1?” “Does this scene elicit an emotional reaction?” “Is my story’s climax impacting?” As a submitting writer, you have two chances to ask for feedback. First, in your introductory blurb to your readership, posted on the online forum along with your submission. Second, in person before a critique begins, as an announcement to your critique group. Proactive requests can designate up to about 50% of the critique conversation. What you know you need help with is important, but so is what your critique group reveals which you didn’t beforehand realize needs work.
Active. During a critique, the submitting writer is encouraged to ask questions, seek clarifications, redirect the conversation, engage with particular workshoppers 1-on-1, restate needs and desires as they develop, and even politely interrupt the conversation when it becomes unhelpful. However, when being active, please be mindful not to become over-active: do not explain, rationalize, defend, lecture, correct, or otherwise dominate the conversation and prevent a reader-directed critique from occurring. It can be a fine balance. Should the submitting writer tip from being active to over-active, the facilitator will issue a polite reminder; those providing the critique are encouraged to be patient and understanding.
Reflective. It might seem strange that the feedback received during a critique can contain multiple potential solutions to the same problem. These potential solutions may even be contradictory. In our estimation this is a good thing. A critique that provides only one solution is limiting. With writing, the possibilities are endless, and a critique that opens up these possibilities and suggests multiple ways forward is a good critique. How will you know which suggestions are relevant? How will you know which reader response is a true compass for you? The answer to these questions is: through reflection. After a workshop ends, it’s a good idea to take at least a day or two off from writing to sort through the many statements made during the critique discussion. A stronger rewrite is the ultimate result of the critique, but in order to guarantee that the critique translates into this stronger rewrite, it’s necessary to reflect. Do not rush; do not go with first impressions; do not trust advice even when given nicely. Think it all through slowly and methodically. After the critique ends, you will have the chance to follow up with your critique group via email or via our forum’s internal messaging system, should you wish for further clarification. Generally speaking, the more thoughtful reflection you bring to a piece of writing, the stronger that piece of writing will become.
What Our Members Say …
Tuesdays find us at candlelit tables
Drinks in hand, we discuss our fables
Feedback, given and taken in good form
We converse, but it is our stories that perform
From novels to novellas
From Mary Sue’s to Cinderella’s
Be it a chapter or a prologue
All’s discussed over wine and grog
We come for good advice
Which we get for a beer’s price
We come hoping to be inspired
And we leave with muses set afire
So visit us on a Tuesday night
Join us, communicate with candlelight
Come for food, kinship and drink
Bring your words to the People’s Ink
– Nicole O.
“I’ve been in a handful of writing groups over the years, but nothing quite like the People’s Ink. At first I was a little wary of joining such a large group. I figured the chemistry I had worked so hard to create with my smaller group would be missing here. I was wrong. The People’s Ink is just a larger family. Best of all, you get out of it what you put in. There are so many opportunities between the various focus groups, manuscript exchanges and craft workshops. You can really tailor your experience based on your level of writing proficiency and where you are with your work. I recommend the People’s Ink to anyone looking to link to a diverse community of writers.”
– Adam S.
“This is an awesome writing group. Let me just put that out there to start. I’ve been in several writing groups over the years in various cities, and The People’s Ink is by far the best one I’ve found. It’s on par with the masters-level writing workshops I participated in during grad school. So yeah, it’s pretty bomb. There are so many wonderful people in the group with varying levels of experience, all genres are welcome, and it’s a really fun, warm bunch of writers. Whether you write short fiction, poetry, novels, or philosophy — seriously, whatever — you’ll find a place here. The feedback I’ve received on my novel-in-progress has been insightful, enlightening, and invaluable. I’ve yet to attend a meeting I didn’t enjoy.”
– Meg S.
“ A bunch of writers, all of them working on different stuff, coming together each week, talking about each others work, helping each other make it better, watching projects develop over time, creating a sense of community. Writers across America — nay, the world! — wish they had this sort of group in their town. And it just so happens that we do. ”
– Charlie F.