Good Monday morning to you! The birds were a raucousness back there in the live oak tree about a half hour or so ago, but they’ve all slipped off now to some other breakfasting place, and so my morning song is the distant rise in commuter traffic and a garbage truck doing its work a few blocks away. What music is finding you already this morning?
On Saturday this weekend I got to spend the afternoon and evening celebrating the release of Pat Schneider‘s new book, How the Light Gets In: Writing as Spiritual Practice. Pat is the founder and foremother of the Amherst Writers and Artists writing workshop method. She wrote, in another of her books (Writing Alone and With Others): “Everyone is a writer. You are a writer. All over the world, in every culture, human beings have carved into stone, written on parchment, birch bark, or scraps of paper, and sealed into letters–their words. Those who do not write stories and poems on solid surfaces tell them, sing them, and in so doing, write them on the air. Creating with words is our continuing passion.” She reminds us that William Stafford said, “A writer is someone who writes!” Pat envisioned writing workshops as a place where people could support one another’s new writing efforts, rather than tearing at each other’s writing out of some misguided competitive spirit (the sort that was often nurtured and encouraged in the sorts of writing workshops she encountered during her MFA program). And the model she developed is now in use all over the US, Canada, Ireland, and in Africa (in Malawai).
I am telling you about her now because she has been my inspiration and teacher, and I want you to know about her. When I first discovered Pat’s work, I was about ten years into my own healing/recovery, was living in southern Maine, and was deeply depressed, wondering what I was going to do with my life. I found AWA at about the same time I found the Transformative Language Arts program at Goddard, and AWA provided me with the ethics and structure for both my Master’s study and my work in the world. Pat herself taught me what a fierce advocate for writers looks like, and I have spent the last twelve years working to embody her fiery, heart-centered spirit.
Pat Schneider studied at Pacific School of Religion, and that’s also where she met and married her husband, Peter. She returns regularly to PSR for lectures and a summer workshop series. So what a gift for us to be able to celebrate her new book at this place, with an afternoon of free, open-to-the-public writing workshops, a reception for her with information about local AWA workshops (in addition to Writing Ourselves Whole, there were tables for VoiceFlame Int’l, Marty Williams and the A Thousand Words workshop , Peggy Simmons of Green Windows, Jan Haag and John Crandall of AWA Sacramento, Chris DeLorenzo of Laguna Writers, Joan Marie Wood of Temescal Writers, Teresa Burns Gunther of Lakeshore Writers, and Cary Tennis’ workshops) and followed by Pat reading from How the Light Gets In and chatting with Cary Tennis and the audience.
In my small, afternoon writing group, we wrote about the things that we save (by way of introducing our writing voices to one another), and then we, together, generated a list of “first times” (see above!) and wrote together about those. In just two hours, folks dropped into some deeply powerful writing. I’m grateful to everyone who shared that time in Mudd 204 with me!