How many times have I written this in the blog recently: there’s so much I want to tell you, and not nearly enough time? I’m sorry to have missed blogging over the last several days! During my trip from Friday early morning to yesterday, I was completely off-line (always kind of amazing).
Quick reminder! The day-long writing and body mindfulness workshop that I’m co-facilitating with Alex Cafarelli this Saturday, 11/13, Body Empathy, is nearly registered in full! Please let me know soon if you’d like to join us!
I’m back from my 64-hr trip to the East Coast, where I got to attend a post-certification retreat/training for Amherst Writer’s and Artists (AWA) facilitators. It was my first time since 2002 that I’d been back to the place where I was trained in the method that has shaped my work, and I had the experience, as I’ve had when visiting houses that I lived in as a child, of the house seeming smaller than in my memory — because, of course, what happened for me there at that house in 2001 and 2002 (during my AWA and AWAI facilitator’s trainings) was so enormous: it’s a big deal when you meet your work for the first time!
This weekend I got to spend some time with 7 other trained facilitators who are doing amazing work around this country and in Ireland, (thank you Margaret, Kim, Jeannie, Patricia, Maggie, Marian and Kathleen!), and, too, with Pat Schneider (who developed this method we use and love, and who still regularly leads workshops) and Maureen Buchanan Jones, who is currently executive director (and sole staff person) of AWA, and who also leads her own groups. Pat and Maureen were the training facilitators, and gave the rest of us the blessed (yes, blessed!) gift of just getting to be participants! Many of us attendees this weekend mentioned how fantastic it was just to be present and write, to not have to be in charge: so so delightful. We wrote together and talked about how we deal with craft in our workshops and exercises, we got to experience new ways of doing the things we do in our own workshops, we got to deepen our practice in the method. We got to ask the questions that we struggle with, present difficult workshop scenarios and ask this group of smart women for ideas and suggestions. We exchanged our favorite prompts, ate wonderful food, and got to write and write and write.
Before I went back, I told some folks I was headed back to a place where trained AWA facilitators could connect with other trained facilitators and, as I just said, deepen our practice in the method that we so love — the language that I was using felt like Buddhist language, in the practice references, as though I were going to a meditation or spiritual retreat. And in some ways, I was. This ‘radical pedagogy’ that we engage with (as Pat and others refer to it) is also a practice: over and over doing the same steps to create space for new writing; space for risky, deep, surprising writing; space for deep kindness with others and deep witnessing.
I have said before that AWA is the ethical core of my work — and I say that not giving away or abdicating my own agency or responsibility. It’s the structure, the container, the way we hold each other in our creativity and risk. Every workshop, I’m profoundly grateful to have met the woman at the agency where I worked back in Maine who was going to Pat’s for weekend retreats and encouraged me to check her out — we were both writers who weren’t writing enough, she and I, and she thought this would be a place where I could write. I investigated this Pat, and her Amherst Writers and Artists method, just about the same time as I was ready to begin my study at Goddard toward my MA-TLA, looking at the ways queer folks might use erotic writing as a way to gain agency in and around their own sexuality (which later opened to considering how survivors of sexual trauma might use this writing — I had to be pulled somewhat kicking and screaming into focusing my study on incest. I hadn’t wanted to originally, and then, if we’re lucky, we open and change and go where we’re being pulled to go), and in the AWA method, I met the non-hierarchical, non-clinical container for our work. I remember nearly levitating with gratitude and joy when Pat first talked about the importance of the facilitator writing along with everyone else, how that part of the practice leveled somewhat the hierarchy, took us out of the realm of “I am the teacher and I have the answers and you are the student and you are here to risk before me.” No — this was something different. This was a place where the facilitator risks, too; that changes everything.
This weekend I got to be with my mentor and teacher, which is a gift in itself, and got to meet others to learn from.
Let’s leave it with this quote that Pat and Maureen offered us, from Franz Kafka (from a letter he wrote to Felice Bauer): “For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender…”
Yes. Thank you for the ways you dive into your aloneness and bring back up with you revelations and surrender. Thank you for that gift and that risk. Thank you for your words.