Guidelines for Starting a Deck Group

An exerpt from The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel.

Where to find people:

1. Ask two friends or aquaintances who have an interest in writing. Each may have two friends who'd like to join.

2. Put an ad in your local paper.

3. Put up a notice in your bookstore.

4. Place an announcement in the store newsletter.

5. Contact Naomi at

Where to conduct the workshop:

1. At your home.

2. In the local library.

3. In a cafe or restaurant.

4. At your bookstore.

5. On-line, in a chat room or discussion area on the internet.

What you need:

1. A copy of The Observation Deck .

2. Writing paper, prefably looseleaf paper or a notebook so that all writing can be kept in one place.

3. A few favorite books to use as reference sources.

4. Some crayons, clay, colored paper, or old magazines.

5. A few newspapers.

6. A black board or a flip chart (optional).

7. A source of music (optional).

The procedure:

1. Start with a centering exercise to bring the group together. Breathe.

2. Check in: Take a few minutes for each person to share where they are with their writing and/or how they experienced the previous week's exercise.

3. Shuffle the deck.

4. Pull a card.

5. Read the chapter that corresponds to the card.

6. Talk about what the card says to each person and explore how the technique can be used to enhance each person's writing.

7. Choose an exercise from the chapter or create a new one inspired by the card. Set the timer for a period between 5 and 30 minutes, to be determined by the group, and write without stopping to think or edit.

8. Everyone has the opportunity (but not the obligation) to share. Participants can share what they wrote or simply talk about what they learned doing the exercise.

9. Generate a list of insights or actions on the board.

10. Shuffle again and repeat actions 5 through 9. If the time is running short this card is designated as homework. Generate a list of ways the card may be used over the following week. Each person will share their experience with the exercise during next week's check-in.


1. Confidentiality must be established. No one is to talk about anyone else's story ideas outside the workshop.

2. Negative feedback is not allowed. Each piece of writing is valuable in and of itself.

3. Each participant can customize any exercise to fit his/her own needs. You can use it to work on a piece you have already started or do each exercise afresh. write about whatever the card evokes in you.

The purpose of each group is not to create great art on site but to give participants the chance to experiment with different techniques and ways of experiencing the environment.


A designated leader or teacher can choose the exercises ahead of time, using the deck as a guide for lesson plans.

The leader can only give "feedback" by suggesting that a participant writer try another, specific, card to see how it can help take the work to another level.

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