Guidelines for People's Ink Facilitators

The People's Ink Facilitator Guidelines is currently in version 2.0.

Future versions will be powered by your input, so please suggest the changes you think appropriate.

Thank you for facilitating at The People’s Ink!

Table of Contents

  1. About
  2. Overview questions
    1. What is a facilitator?
    2. With what educational philosophy should a facilitator approach the role?
    3. Why become a facilitator?
    4. How can I become a facilitator?
    5. What is the time commitment?
    6. How often will facilitators actually facilitate?
    7. What are a facilitator’s attendance expectations?
    8. Is it possible to have the role revoked?
  3. Core Responsibilities—Preparing and Facilitating Critiques and Discussions
    1. What is the level of preparedness expected of facilitators for critiques and discussions?
    2. Is there anything else a facilitator can do to prepare?
    3. What is the role of a facilitator during a critique or discussion?
    4. How do facilitators help with discipline at The People’s Ink?
  4. Additional Responsibilities
    1. Are there any other responsibilities for facilitators to perform?
    2. How do facilitators orientate potential new members (observers)?
    3. How do existing facilitators help train new facilitators?
    4. What is the role of a facilitator during the first meeting of a Focus Group?
    5. What should a facilitator do to set up a workshop and take attendance?
    6. What happens during facilitator meetings?

1. About

This document explains the role of a facilitator at The People’s Ink.

2. Overview questions

2.1 What is a facilitator?

This question is best answered by defining a facilitator’s responsibilities. All responsibilities listed here are explained further below.

  • Core Responsibilities
    • Before critique groups, facilitators should review critique submissions in depth and to the degree necessary to facilitate a critique group.
    • Before discussion groups, facilitators should prepare discussion syllabi and study discussion materials to the degree necessary to facilitate a discussion group.
    • During meetings, facilitators guide critique groups or discussion groups as needed in order to assure the positivity and productivity of the critique or discussion.
  • Secondary Responsibilities:
    • Before and after meetings, facilitators may perform potential new member orientations.
    • During meetings, facilitators may co-facilitate critique groups and discussion groups to provide oversight for new facilitators, or as requested.
    • Outside of meetings, facilitators should attend facilitator training meetings once every 6 months.

2.2 With what educational philosophy should a facilitator approach the role?

A facilitator serves those attending the critique group or discussion group, and takes responsibility for ensuring that the meeting is educational and enjoyable for everyone present. At times the facilitator will act as a teacher or as a guide, though they should never present themselves as a high authority.

2.3 Why become a facilitator?

There are many good answers to this question. Here are a few:

  • You’re passionate about creative writing.
  • You believe there should be alternatives for learning and practicing creative writing beyond what colleges and universities provide.
  • You want to build your resume or strengthen an application.

2.4 How can I become a facilitator?

In most cases, facilitators are drawn from active members of The People’s Ink.

Here are the steps to becoming a facilitator:

  1. The potential new facilitator should read and be familiar with this document.
  2. Next, the potential new facilitator should attend a facilitator training meeting.
  3. Finally, the new facilitator will begin facilitating critiques and discussions. At first, the new facilitator may be shadowed by a more experienced facilitator who will serve as a co-facilitator. With time and experience, the new facilitator will take on the role singularly.

2.5 What is the time commitment?

A facilitator can expect to spend around 1-3 hours per week preparing to facilitate a critique group, and around 3 hours preparing to facilitate a discussion group.

Facilitators are expected to convene once every 6 months for facilitator training meetings. These meetings last between 1-2 hours. Information about these meetings can be found below under section 3.5.

A facilitator is expected to make a 1-year commitment to the facilitator role. This is necessary given the logistical considerations of training new facilitators, and because it provides stability to The People’s Ink's offerings.

2.6 How often will facilitators actually facilitate?

Facilitators do not necessarily facilitate during each of their attendances. There are a number of factors that determine how often a facilitator is assigned to the role.

  • According to need—if the number of available facilitators is high, then the chances of facilitating are low, and vice versa.
  • According to request—facilitators can be requested.
  • According to availability—the facilitator is welcome to facilitate as they are available to do so.

2.7 What are a facilitator’s attendance expectations?

A facilitator should be in attendance for meetings that they have been assigned to facilitate >95% of the time.

2.8 Is it possible to have the facilitator role revoked?

Yes, it’s possible to have the role of facilitator revoked for the following reasons:

  • Failure to follow these Guidelines for Facilitation.
  • Failure to follow the Guidelines for Participation.
  • Failure to be present for workshops or discussions.
  • Failure to attend facilitator meetings.

3 Core Responsibilities—Facilitating Critiques and Discussions

3.1 What is the level of preparedness expected of facilitators for a critique or discussion?

Before a meeting commences, the facilitator should obtain an in depth understanding of the critique group submission or discussion group materials. An appropriate goal is to be able to speak for 1-hour without interruption on the creative writing submission or discussion group materials. While this is never necessary in practice, it does indicate a depth of understanding that would allow the facilitator to navigate the critique group submission or discussion group materials with the expected level of preparedness.

Additional recommendations:

  • Schedule at least two separate times prior to the meeting to completely review the materials.
  • Make notes covering key points or items of interest.
  • Compile a list of questions and discussion prompts.

3.2 Is there anything else a facilitator can do to prepare?

Facilitators are encouraged to study subjects pertaining to creative writing, e.g., story mechanics, writing mechanics, literary theory, literary history, literature, and related.

3.3 What is the role of a facilitator during a critique or discussion?

The facilitator is responsible for making sure the critique or discussion is positive and productive. Oftentimes critiques and discussions at The People’s Ink will contain these qualities without guidance, and when this is the case, the facilitator for all intents and purposes can revert to the role of a regular participant.

The following lists contain guidelines and suggestions for facilitator to implement during a critique or discussion. Please note that not all suggestions will be relevant during all meetings.

  • To begin the meeting, the facilitator may:
    • Read aloud questions from the submitting writer's introductory blurb, or else prompts from the discussion syllabus.
    • Request the submitting writer ask questions or provide direction to guide the critique discussion.
    • Offer a 5-15 minute overview of the discussion topic.
    • Initiate a round-robin where each participant provides their names and a 1-2 minute overview response to the critique submission or the discussion syllabus. During this, the facilitator should consider marking down points to return to during the critique or discussion.
  • During a meeting, the facilitator should:
    • Make sure that positive feedback is provided for the submitting creative writer.
    • Make sure that all significant aspects of the critique submission or topic of discussion are addressed.
    • Make sure that all questions raised by the submitting creative writer, discussion syllabus, and/or discussants, are satisfactorily answered.
    • Offer questions or comments if the critique or discussion slows down or goes silent.
    • Offer questions or comments if the critique becomes tangential.
      • Note, in the case of discussions, tangents are welcome so long as they are generally approved by participants—part of the magic of live conversation is its unpredictability and creative synthesis.
    • Check in with the submitting creative writer or the discussants to make sure that the critique or discussion is proceeding in an acceptable fashion.
    • Call on critiquers or discussants who appear to have contributions to add, but who have not yet found an opening to provide those contributions.
  • Approaching the end of a meeting, the facilitator may:
    • Call everyone’s attention when only 10 minutes remain in the allotted meeting length. At that time, the facilitator may invite closing remarks from critiquers and discussants; additionally, the facilitator may ask the submitting creative writer to address final questions to the critique group.
    • Call everyone’s attention when only 1 minute remains in the allotted meeting length. At that time, the facilitator should thank everyone for being present and make closing remarks.

3.4 How do facilitators help with discipline at The People’s Colloquium?

A facilitator should be familiar with our Guidelines for Participation and thus able to recognize when violations to those guidelines have occurred. In particular, facilitators should be mindful of the following:

  • Facilitators should notify an administrator if a submission has been posted for critique which, in the facilitator's opinion, lacks a content warning when it should have one.
  • Facilitators should politely but firmly correct the conduct of a participant during a critique or discussion when that participant fails to adhere to the Guidelines for Participation. Afterward, the facilitator should notify an administrator of the occurrence.
    • Note: it is up to the administrator, not the facilitator, to decide upon the appropriate administrative action.
  • Facilitators should immediately contact an administrator, venue staff, or the appropriate authority if and when there is an emergency. To date, this has not been necessary, and it is our hope that this will continue to be the case. Possible reasons to contact an administrator, venue staff, or an authority include:
    • An attendee has harassed another attendee.
    • An attendee has made an unwanted sexual advance against another attendee.
    • An attendee is overly intoxicated.
    • In the facilitator’s judgement, any egregious situation is occurring.
  • Important: A facilitator should not engage with a dangerous or uncertain situation. Please leave this to an administrator or venue staff.

4. Additional Facilitator Responsibilities

4.1 Are there any other responsibilities for facilitators to perform?

Weekly, there are a few additional responsibilities that a facilitator may be asked to perform, including:

  • Orientating potential new members (observers).
  • Serving as a co-facilitator to help train new facilitators.

4.2 How do facilitators orientate potential new members (observers)?

Orientations occur 20 minutes before the beginning of a critique or discussion, and for another 10-20 minutes after the critique or discussion ends.

Prior to the meeting, the facilitator answers questions that the potential new member (observer) has about The People’s Ink, largely by quoting information from The People’s Ink’s website, The Guidelines for Participation, and by sharing personal experience pertinent to The People’s Ink.

After the meeting ends, the facilitator reconvenes with the potential new member (observer) to inquire about their experience and whether it met their expectations. If the potential new member (observer) wishes to continue on with the workshop, the facilitator should perform a website tutorial so that the potential new member (observer) can learn how the website works for members—logging in, finding assignments, finding submissions or syllabi, checking out other offerings, our social media, so on and so forth.

After the orientation has ended, please contact an administrator to convey the result of the orientation—specifically whether the potential new member (observer) is interested in attending The People’s Ink in the future.

4.3 How do existing facilitators help train new facilitators?

Occasionally a facilitator will be assigned as a co-facilitator. In these cases, the co-facilitator should talk with the primary facilitator before the critique or discussion in order to discover how they can best be of service in their supporting role. This is a conversation that can happen by email or in person.

When a facilitator is assigned to co-facilitate a critique or discussion, they should act as just another participant, stepping in to facilitate only as needed or by request. For instance, the co-facilitator might act as facilitator at the request of the assigned facilitator, say if the conversation extends beyond their knowledge.

After the critique or discussion, the co-facilitator should check in with the assigned facilitator to discuss challenges, if necessary.

4.4 What is the role of a facilitator during the first meeting of a Focus Group?

A Focus Group is a critique group that has a fixed membership, agrees to meet for a certain number of meetings, and is united by a shared interest.

There are several special considerations for the first meeting of a Focus Group.

  • To start the meeting, the facilitator should begin with a round robin of introductions so that participants can meet and learn about each other. These introductions should include a description of their writing project (how far along they are, difficulties, expected completion dates, etc.), and what they hope to receive from participation in the Focus Group.
  • The next step is to determine the Focus Group’s structure. Certain aspects of a Focus Group’s structure are fixed. For instance: Focus Groups meet on an every-other-week schedule, and meet for 1.5 hours. However, other aspects of a Focus Group’s structure are up to that Focus Group’s participants to decide. This decision should occur in a democratic fashion that meets the needs and desires of that Focus Group’s participants. Aspects of the Focus Group to be decided upon include: the nature or quantity of Focus Group submissions; whether or not a Focus Group will include discussions in addition to critiques and if so on what schedule; how many submission rotations the participants are committing to, etc.
  • The final step is to determine a submission rotation. The best way to do this is to plot the dates which the Focus Group will meet given the number of submission rotations agreed to, and then to assign particular participants to particular dates. For instance, if there are six members of a Focus Group, and they have agreed to meet for two submission rotations, then the facilitator must assign a total of twelve workshops. Remember, Focus Groups meet every other week, and thus, in this example, the facilitator should determine the submission rotation for the next twenty-four weeks. When establishing a submission rotation, the key factors are participant schedules and production rates, and workshop dates should be complimentary of them.

Once the submission rotation has been established, the Focus Group’s first meeting has come to an end. The Focus Group will meet again in two weeks for its first critique meeting.

4.5 What should a facilitator do to set up a workshop and take attendance?

A facilitate may be called to set up a workshop. This oftentimes occur when an administrator cannot be present or cannot arrive prior to the beginning of the workshop.

If a facilitator is called to set up a workshop, that facilitator should perform the following duties:

  • The facilitator should set up the physical space for the workshop no less than 20 minutes prior to the start of the workshop. Setting up the space entails moving or combining tables and assigning workshop group spaces. It’s important that tables/workshop spaces be given sufficient distance from one another to minimize the spread of noise, and also in order to create as comfortable a physical space as possible.
  • Once the physical space has been set up, it’s necessary to make sure that participants know the correct place for everyone to sit. In practice, this usually entails locating lost looking participants and then directing them to the right location.
  • The facilitator should take attendance. To do so, copy-paste the workshops attendance list from the online forum. Bold names that are in attendance and underline names that are absent. After the workshop, please send this list to an administrator so that the master attendance list can be updated. Below you will find an example.

The People’s Gallery – 09/12/2020

Community Critique #1

Submitting writer: John D

Facilitator: Samantha S

Jason T

Derek H

Dan B

Steven K

Comte D

Sally S

Discussion Group #1: Theory

Facilitator: Rich P

John Q

Alfred K

Peter P

Indigo I

Gary D

4.6 What happens during facilitator meeting?

At facilitator meetings, facilitators from across The People’s Ink’s workshops and discussions convene to discuss the facilitator role, its responsibilities, its difficulties, and strategies for being effective.

It is part training, part commiserating, part revision to the role and this document, and partly a way to build community across The People’s Ink.